Philippines bring ex-Premier League keeper against Vietnam

By Hieu Luong   November 9, 2023 | 04:48 pm PT
Philippines bring ex-Premier League keeper against Vietnam
Philippines goalkeeper Neil Etheridge. Photo by Philippine Football Federation
Philippines called up 26 players, including former Premier League goalie Neil Etheridge, to prepare for their next game against Vietnam in the second round of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

Etheridge is playing for Birmingham City in the English Football League Championship (EFL), the second-highest division in England after the Premier League. The 33-year-old goalkeeper is a youth academy product of Chelsea and Fulham. Etheridge has also played for clubs at the second, third and fourth division of English football, such as Charlton Athletic, Bristol Rovers, Oldham Athletic and Walsall.

In the 2017-2018 season, Etheridge won the EFL title with Cardiff City for a promotion to the Premier League, where he played 38 games but could not help his club escape relegation.

Etheridge started playing for Philippines national team in 2008 and has played 76 games since. In June 2019, he was valued at $8.56 million by football site Transfermarkt, and became the most valuable Southeast Asian player in history.

Philippines also called up Santiago Rublico, a Spanish-born player who has Filipino parents. He is playing for the U19 team at Atletico Madrid as a right-back.

Rublico was called up to the national team for the first time in March 2023. A month later, he represented Philippines at SEA Games 32, playing all four matches in the group stage, but the team failed to advance.

On the Philippines roster, there are only six players from domestic clubs while the rest are playing abroad.

Coach Michaeal Wiess said the squad is a combination between experienced players and young talents.

"We have a reason to stay optimistic in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers," he added.

However, Philippines are also missing many players due to injury.

They will play Vietnam on Nov. 16 and Indonesia on Nov. 21.

In 12 encounters with Vietnam, Philippines have won two, drew one and lost nine.

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