Handball bronze winners, U-23 Azkals kick off PH SEAG Games campaign

The Philippines and Timor Leste collide anew with Stephan Schrock (right) tabbing one of two veteran spots in the under-23 squad.

The Philippines and Timor Leste collide anew with Stephan Schrock (right) tabbing one of two veteran spots in the under-23 squad. —EARVIN PERIAS

There are still six days to go before the cauldron is lit in the 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA) in Vietnam.

But this early, Team Philippines is ready to plunge into action.

The country’s men’s handball team, bronze medalists in the 2019 edition when it participated in the biennial meet for the first time, will face powerhouse Thailand at 4 p.m. on Friday at Tuan Chau Resort Ha Long in Quang Ninh.

And if you ask Philippine Handball Federation coach and training director Joanna Franquelli, the current team could surpass its 2019 finish.

“We have a chance of another podium finish but everything is unpredictable,” said Franquelli. “I’m just hoping to execute our game plan against anybody.”

The team is composed of Jamael Pangandaman, Josef Maximillan Valdez, Mark Vincent Dubouzet, Andrew Michael Harris, Rey Joshua Tabuzo, Manuel Lasangue Jr., Dhane Miguelle Varela, Van Jacob Baccay, John Michael Pasco and Daryoush Zandi.

Philippine football also debuts on Friday, against Timor Leste in Group A at 4 p.m. at Viet Tri Stadium in Phu Tho.

Azkals regulars Stephan Schrock, 35, and Joven Bedic Hervas will lead the squad that features Enrique Fernandez, Enrico Alañanon, Scott Philip Galang, Francis Palogan, Jaime Domingo, Christian Mangaron, Sandro Miguel Sison, Geri Veliganio, Jacob Reyes, Matt Ocampo, Miguel Antonio Pangcog, Quincy Boltron, Jayvee Solon, Yrick Rapisura, Jermi Navarro, Dennis Salazar, Oliver Saludares and Oskari Kekkonen.

“To our ‘Fighting Team Philippines,’ I wish you good luck,” said Philippine Olympic Committee president Bambol Tolentino.

“Our athletes have prepared well for the SEA Games, and I trust that all of them will put in their best effort to deliver those medals,’’ said commissioner Ramon Fernandez of the Philippine Sports Commission, who will act as chef de mission for Team Philippines.

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