FOOTBALL: PMNFT Look to Send a Message With New Players

Philippine Men’s National Football Team Looks to Send a Message With New Players

The PMNFT has a number of new talents who have played all over the world. Here’s what we think this could mean for the national team.

Young blood is one of the themes for the Philippines Men’s National Football Team (PMNFT) as it takes on Vietnam and Indonesia on the road this coming June 6 and 11. 

Both games are in Group F of the second phase of qualifying for both the World Cup and the 2027 AFC Asian Cup. The third and fourth placers of the four-team group miss out on the big dance in North America in two years’ time but can fight for a berth in the 2027 AFC Asian Cup starting next March.  

Actual qualification for the 2026 FIFA World Cup is mathematically possible, but the outlook is bleak. The Philippines will need to sweep both matches to get to seven points in Group F. That would put them level with current second-placer Indonesia, with Iraq having secured the top spot, but they need help. 

The Garudas are at zero-goal difference at the moment while the Philippines are at -8 which is also a huge hurdle. We need Iraq to deliver a proper hiding to Indonesia on June 6 in Jakarta while we win big in Hanoi. Then, the Pinoys must run up the score in a victory in the Gelora Bung Karno on June 11 to ensure we overcome the goal difference. In the other game that day, Iraq plays Vietnam, who are on three points. So we can afford to see Vietnam win there since their maximum will be six points in this scenario.

Should all of these eventualities come to fruition, then the PMNFT will finish second in the group and proceed to the third round of World Cup qualification, which will take place during FIFA windows in the third and fourth quarters of the year.

If we don’t climb this very high mountain, the Filipino booters must turn these two matches into statement games; showcases of our potential going forward. The message of intent should be clear that we mean business for the ASEAN Mitsubishi Electric Cup in November and December as well as Asian Cup qualifiers slated for March next year. 

Coach Tom Saintfiet has been scouring the world for top talent, and new faces have come into the PMNFT squad, some with fresh Philippine passports in hand, to fight for the flag.

One of them is Zico Bailey. Currently playing for New Mexico United in the second tier in the USA, Bailey is the brother of Kainoa Bailey, who played briefly for Stallion Laguna and is now plying his trade in Indonesia. 

Bailey may be named Zico after the legendary Brazilian striker, but he is actually a right-back. The 24-year-old has played in the MLS, a total of 19 games for Cincinnati FC over two seasons ending in 2022. 

Check out this fantastic Zico Bailey goal when he was playing for San Antonio in the USL:

Matt Baldisimo has also received a call-up. His brother Michael got action in the last FIFA window when Matthew was hurt. Now the York United defensive midfielder is all set to make a difference in June. 

Check out the 26-year-old’s body of work here:

The first clip is a stunning goal from outside the box, but the other highlights are mostly Baldisimo doing the grunt work of a holding midfielder, like winning 50-50 balls and making crunching tackles. 

Coming from a bit closer is Griffin McDaniel. The Stallion Laguna striker has been bringing his scoring boots for almost every game in this PFL season. Here is a clip of his hat trick against Philippine Army earlier in the season, where he used both feet. The pick of the bunch is the stunning third goal, a strike from the parking lot. 

If that last name sounds familiar, it’s because he is the brother of Women’s National Team members Chandler and Olivia. Griffin, also known as Finn, is 24 years old. 

Dylan Demuynck is one of Coach Tom’s new finds for the PMNFT. The 20-year-old Filipino-Belgian is a left winger on the books of S.V. Zulte Waregem, a team in the second tier of Belgian football. The 5’5” Belgian U20 international can feed attackers from the flank and also score himself, as is evidenced by this clip:

Adrian Ugelvik could be a huge addition to the squad. The 6’2” central defender is in the Norwegian second tier. Center back has been a position that’s not easy to fill, and to have a 22-year-old in the camp is a massive boost.

A towering presence in the heart of the defensive third, Ugelvik can also be a set-piece aerial threat as you can see from this clip:

Kristofer Reyes is another new face in the center of the defense. The Icelandic-Filipino is currently playing in the Thai second tier.  It looks like from this compilation that Reyes is also adept at shutting down opposing offenses out wide. 

Reyes is 27 and stands six feet flat. His body is adorned by Philippine-themed tattoos. 

Twenty-four-year-old Scott Woods is a versatile addition to the team. The Northwestern University product has played for the U23 national team and the Azkals Development Team and can be deployed either at holding midfield or left back.

Now playing in Norway, Woods is very composed with the ball at his feet. 

Alex Monis is a forward who plays for New England Revolution II in the MLS Next Pro league, two tiers down from the MLS proper. This appears to be a U21 league.  Monis is in form, scoring three assists and dishing out as many goals for his side this season. 

The Illinois native has made three senior appearances for the Chicago Fire in the MLS and has scored at that level, lashing in this late equalizer against New England two years ago. 

It is hard to say if any of these new players will break into Saintfiet’s starting lineups. Competition in the camp in Dubai is undoubtedly tough, with the likes of Santi Rublico, Amani Aguinaldo, Kevin Ingreso, and PMNFT skipper Neil Etheridge expected to retain their starting roles. 

World Cup qualification may be a stretch now, but the new blood can help us dream about the future. 

Banner images from New Mexico United on Instagram.

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