Bundesliga ace Gerrit Holtmann set to make long-awaited Philippines debut

Bochum's Gerrit Holtmann (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring the 4-1 lead during the German Bundesliga soccer match between VfL Bochum and FC Bayern Munich in Bochum, Germany, 12 February 2022. EPA/RONALD WITTEK

Philippines' wait to unveil Bundesliga ace Gerrit Holtmann is set to finally be over, with the Bochum attacker named in their 25-man squad for upcoming friendlies against Malaysia and Singapore.

Holtmann, a former Germany Under-20 international, qualifies to play for Philippines through his mother and has been interested in representing the Azkals since last March -- although his eligibility to be officially called up was said to be delayed until now due to issues with documentation.

But the 26-year-old, who memorably scored a brilliant individual for Bochum last month in a shock 4-2 win over Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, could now make his senior international bow on March 23 against Philippines -- the first of three matches in a triangular friendly tournament dubbed the FAS Tri-Nations Series to be held at Singapore's National Stadium.

The addition of Holtmann to their ranks will be a huge boost for a Philippines outfit that have made huge strides in recent years, having gone from minnows of the continent to making a maiden AFC Asian Cup appearance in 2019 -- with their current FIFA world ranking of 129 making them the 23rd highest Asian nation.

Nonetheless, Philippines' progress did take a step back at the recent AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 when they failed to make it out of the group stage for only the second time in six editions.

Holtmann will be the second player with significant top level European experience to feature for the Azkals, following in the footsteps of current captain Stephan Schrock -- also of mixed German heritage and who previously played for the likes of Hoffenheim and Eintracht Frankfurt.