The Philippines are finally making their debut in the AFC Asian Cup and the 23-man squad making the trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are etching their names in the history books as the first squad to participate in the competition.
Popularly known as the Azkals, the Philippines national team have steadily improved over the past years and once considered minnows, they are now a team that are not to be overlooked as they have the talent to pull off a few surprises along the way.
With that said, the national squad are still looking for their first national title – with the closest being the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup where they finished as runners-up behind Palestine.
So many players have come and gone, proudly wearing the Philippine jersey on their backs and FOX Sports Asia dives into the history books to come up with a Dream 11 who could make the Azkals proud in the continental championship.
While some people may have different opinions on who should make the best 11 of all time, the majority may automatically place Neil Etheridge as their best goalkeeper ever.
Currently playing for Premier League side Cardiff City, Etheridge’s services will be missed as he is unable to join the Philippines in the AFC Asian Cup.
An excellent shot-stopper who has shown in recent Premier League matches how effective he is between the sticks, the Azkals surely hope that they can feature Etheridge in future tournaments.
RB: ALY BORROMEO
Aly Borromeo has made 42 international caps for the Philippines and was a long-time captain during the early stages of the team’s emergence in the 2010s.
Born in the United States, Borromeo is an excellent defender who was never afraid to commit to a challenge in order to ensure the team does not surrender a goal.
At 35 years old, he plays for Kaya FC and also manages Newington 9th eleven.
CB: JERRY LUCENA
Born in Esbjerg, Denmark, Jerry Lucena would go on and play Danish football with clubs Esbjerg fB and AGF.
He would also represent the Denmark national team in the U-21s but would eventually switch to the Philippine colours in 2011. He would go on to play 38 international matches for the Azkals and was part of the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup squad.
Lucena currently coaches the U-17 and U-19 assistant coach for his childhood club, Esbjerg fB.
CB: DENNIS CAGARA
Like Lucena, Dennis Cagara was born in Denmark but would go on to represent the Philippines in the senior level.
He would play for Denmark in various youth levels but has 14 international caps for the Philippines.
Cagara has played for teams like Hertha BSC, Dynamo Dresden, FSV Frankfurt and FC Nordsjaelland.
LB: JASON SABIO
Many credit the emergence of Philippines’ football due to the arrival of foreign-born players but Jason Sabio has a slightly different background as he was born in the Philippines but eventually moved to the United States where he learned about the sport.
He would eventually represent the country as a defender, known for his excellent leaping ability and communication on the pitch.
At 32 years old, Sabio currently plays for Ceres-Negros and has 15 international caps for the country.
RM: ELMER BEDIA
While Schrock was applauded for being a Filipino playing in Germany’s top flight, he wasn’t the first as Elmer Bedia was the pioneer.
Bedia is an Australian-Filipino who also played for the Philippine Air Force FC and Brisbane Olympic United FC.
Nicknamed Lacknet, Bedia is also called Mr. Football and was once considered one of the top ten players in Australia in 1986.
CM: STEPHAN SCHROCK
One of the Azkals’ best players at the moment, Stephan Schrock was born in Germany and played in the Bundesliga for teams’ 1899 Hoffenheim and Eintracht Frankfurt.
In the recently-concluded AFF Suzuki Cup, Schrock showed just how effective he can be, constantly threatening for the national team with impressive runs down the flanks.
With 35 international caps, the 32-year-old will be expected to perform at his best in the AFC Asian Cup.
CM: CHRIS GREATWICH
Another name making the trip to the United Arab Emirates, Chris Greatwich won’t be there to play for the national team, he is their assistant coach.
However, he certainly commands respect as he represented the country for 10 years, appearing in 48 international matches and scoring seven goals.
The 35-year-old was born in England and played for teams like Bognor Regis Town, Morris County Colonials and Kaya FC.
LM: EMELIO CALIGDONG
While the previous players on the list have a certain connection to foreign countries, Emelio Caligdong breaks the mould as he makes the list.
An enlisted member of the Philippine Air Force, Chieffy made his debut with the national team in the 2004 AFF Championships. He would go on to make 69 appearances for the country, scoring 16 goals in the process.
At 36 years old, Chieffy plays club football for Green Archers United.
ST: PHIL YOUNGHUSBAND
Undoubtedly the biggest name in the Azkals’ squad in recent years, England-born Phil Younghusband is the team’s face during their emergence in the 2000s.
Along with his older brother James, Phil has brought the Philippines’ national football to new heights, and he currently has 105 international caps for the nation, scoring an incredible 52 goals in the process – the nation’s best in both categories.
He grew up in the Chelsea FC youth academy and currently plays for the Davao Aguilas.
ST: PAULINO ALCANTARA
Last but certainly not least is football legend Paulino Alcantara. Most know him for his stint with La Liga club FC Barcelona as he held the club goal scoring record for 87 years as he scored 369 goals in 357 matches. That record has since been broken by Lionel Messi.
Born in Iloilo, Alcantara would represent the Philippines in the early 1900s, and scored the first goal in their 15-2 win over Japan in the Far Eastern Championship Games in 1917 – that is still the Philippines’ record for the biggest win.
Alcantara would retire early to become a doctor, but he remains to be a legend in Barcelona and the Philippines.
James Younghusband, Juani Guirado and Carli de Murga