Philippines stack naturalized players for World Cup qualifiers

By Hoang Nguyen   May 27, 2024 | 04:54 pm PT
The Philippines national football team's preliminary roster for their 2026 World Cup qualifiers matches against Vietnam and Indonesia next month includes a squad majority of 22 naturalized players.
Philippines goalkeeper and captain Neil Etheridge. Photo by VnExpress/Hieu Luong

Philippines goalkeeper and captain Neil Etheridge. Photo by VnExpress/Hieu Luong

Out of 27 players called up, 22 are naturalized footballers who are playing abroad. The average age of the team is 24.68.

The most prominent player on the squad is still 34-year-old goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, who's playing for Birmingham Club in English second division EFL. Etheridge has been captain of the national team for many years.

Coach Tom Saintfiet will not have the service of some quality players, such as former Bayern Munich defender Raphael Obermair, who's playing for Paderborn in the German second division Bundesliga II. He is valued at €1.2 million ($1.3 million), making him the most expensive player in the national team. Some reports said they refused to leave their clubs to join the national team for the qualifiers.

Coach Saintfiet's goal is to win the games against Vietnam and Indonesia on June 6 and 11 to compete for a ticket to the next round of the World Cup qualifiers.

"If Philippines win the two remaining games, and at the same time Indonesia and Vietnam lose their matches, then we will become the second team in the group to advance," the Belgian coach told local media.

With 7 points, Indonesia hold the biggest advantage. Vietnam (3 points) still have a chance to advance, but in order to do so Indonesia must lose both their matches against Iraq and Philippines.

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