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Young Azkals tipped to lead SEAG drive

MANILA, Philippines - Azkals young guns Amani Aguinaldo and Daisuke Sato might get a crack at payback against their counterparts from Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup tormentors Thailand in next year’s Southeast Asian Games in Singapore.

At 19 and 20, respectively, Aguinaldo and Sato are within the age limit of 23 in the SEAG and should be hands-down choices to join the U-22 team that the Philippine Football Federation aspires to send in the Singapore SEAG.

The Phl footballers missed out the previous SEA Games in Myanmar as they failed to earn the nod of the Philippine Olympic Committee two years ago.

But with the presence of a U-22 pool, coached by Australian Jim Fraser, that competed in this year’s Hassanal Bolkiah Cup in Brunei and underwent training in Japan, as well as eligible players from the Azkals team like Aguinaldo and Sato, the PFF is optimistic it would satisfy the Olympic body’s requirements this time around.

The PFF had already submitted an initial list of 50 players for the SEAG.

The Phl SEAG bets will have to contend with the traditional powers of the region, led by the defending champion Thais.

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The War Elephants’ U-23 players under legendary Kiatisak Senamuang have already shown their stern stuff by placing fourth in the Incheon SEA Games behind gold medalist South Korea, second placer North Korea and bronze winner Iraq.

Over the weekend, the Thais’ U-23 stalwarts captured the Asean crown with a thrilling 4-3 aggregate win over Malaysia. On the way to the finals, the War Elephants beat the Azkals, 3-0, in the semis.

“This team will be playing at the SEA Games in Singapore and also the World Cup qualifiers,” said Senamuang. “Of course, there will be a few additions.”

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