The men’s football team gets the luxury of parading a rock-solid lineup after the government formally approved the application for naturalization of United City FC (UCFC) striker Bienvenido Marañon.
Philippine Azkals team manager Dan Palami expressed elation over this development, saying that his inclusion in the national squad will give them an added option at the attack zone.
“We are delighted that Marañon is now recognized as a Filipino citizen, which will allow him to represent the Azkals in international competitions,” Palami said in a statement.
The 34-year old Spanish striker — the country’s first ever naturalized football player — is expected to be a big boost for Azkals’ firepower as they continue their quest for a berth in the prestigious AFC Asian Cup in 2023.
Marañon was expected to join the team’s initial pool and become its main offensive anchor for the FIFA World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers in the United Arab Emirates last month.
Unfortunately, the naturalization process suffered a delay, prompting him to miss the crucial tourney.
Azkals ended their World Cup hopes after shaky performances against China, Guam and Maldives, but still drew enough points to advance to the next round of the Asian Cup qualifiers.
With Marañon now available to see action for the country, Palami expects a solid campaign once they enter the third stage of the Asian Cup qualifiers and AFF Suzuki Cup later this year.
Aside Marañon, also tipped to carry the cudgels for the Azkals are his UCFC teammate Stephan Schrock and young guns Jeffrey Tabinas, Oliver Bias and Jarvey Gayoso.
“He has shown his love for the country and we look forward to seeing him link up with the rest of the team as part of the Azkals in the future,” Palami added.
“We thank all individuals that made his dream, to become a kababayan, a reality.”