Tag Archives: Azkals

Azkals Begin Asian Cup Campaign with Five-Goal Thriller Against Nepal

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The Philippine Men’s National Team began their AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers campaign on the right foot as they inflicted a 4-1 win over 10-man Nepal last night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Phil Younghusband scored twice to ensure the Philippines collected maximum points in their opening Group F match. Iain Ramsay and Javier Patino were the other goalscorers for the Azkals.

“It’s the first game of the group and we wanted a good start,” said Younghusband. “Although we wanted a win in the friendlies, it’s all preparation for the big one. Our goal is to be in the Asian Cup.”

Coach Thomas Dooley reshuffled his squad from the Malaysia friendly. After a prolonged absences from the lineup, Carlie De Murga made his first start for the Azkals at right back while Jeffrey Christiaens was on the left side. Amani Aguinaldo and Daisuke Sato were the heart of defense. Dennis Villanueva and James Younghusband controlled the midfield with Ramsay and Mike Ott manning the flanks. Younghusband and Patiño were deployed up front.

The Philippines began the match blazing and gained a man advantage in the 12th minute as the Azkals won a penalty. Defender Bikram Lama was sent off for handling the ball after a Patiño header. Phil Younghusband stepped up to take the penalty but was denied by Kiran Limbu.

Nine minutes later, the Philippines won a second penalty kick after Ananta Tamang brought down Ott in the box. Younghusband had the chance to redeem himself and duly converted his 44th international goal.

“My dad always told me that when you’ve missed one, it’s important (that) you take the next one because otherwise that would play on your mind until the time you do score.” said Younghusband on the two penalty kicks. “It’s always important to get a goal as soon as possible when you do miss a penalty because then you forget the missed one and I was happy I was able to have another chance.”

The opening goal set the tone for the Azkals as they scored two more goals in a span of eight minutes. Younghusband got his second of the night — and 45th overall — after a neat pass from Ott left Limbu in no man’s land.

Ramsay added a third in the 27th minute. A mad scramble inside the penalty box allowed the winger to smash in a volley from inside the box.

It seemed to be smooth sailing for the Azkals from then on. However, Nepal exposed the Azkals defense right before half-time as the visitors reduced the cushion with a decent effort from substitute Bishal Rai to end the first half at 3-1.

However, Patiño restored the three-goal cushion to extinguish any hopes of a Nepalese comeback in the in the 73rd minute. The forward was given enough space in the box and rifled a shot past Limbu to put a stamp in their first Asian Cup qualifier match.

Dooley was fairly impressed with the outcome of the match despite the lone conceded goal. The Philippines sits atop Group F level with Yemen, who won 2-1 against Tajikistan, at three points, but the Philippines have a better goal differential.

“Overall, I’m very happy with the three points,” said Dooley. “After we scored the first goal, we were able to create more chances.”

Up next for the Azkals in the Asian Cup Qualifiers is a match against Tajikistan on June 13 in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. — CAL

Asian Cup Dream Beckons for Azkals

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The Philippine Men’s National Team embark on a new journey as the Azkals take on Nepal in the opening match of the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers tonight at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

The Azkals waited four months to return to competitive action and now aspire to be one of the 12 remaining teams that will participate in the Asian Cup. The Asian Cup is a quadrennial event where all member associations of AFC participate. The Philippines are the top seeded team in Group F, which consists of Nepal, Tajikistan, and Yemen. The top two teams in each group at the end of the Qualifiers will advance to the final round which will be held in 2019 at the United Arab Emirates.

The chance to qualify in Asia’s showpiece event is something that both the players and coach Thomas Dooley yearn for especially after getting close to qualifying in 2014.

“This is the highest achievement that we can get,” said Dooley. “We want to be there and that’s our ultimate goal. It’s not going to be easy, but it is possible.”

Skipper Phil Younghusband recalled the past two heartbreaks for the Azkals and stated that the team has learned a lot from those losses. The Azkals lost to Palestine in the AFC Challenge Cup final in 2014, which served as the qualifiers to the AFC Asian Cup 2015 and lost to Turkmenistan in the 2012 Challenge Cup.

“Looking back, in 2012 and especially in 2014 we fell short by a goal, we felt very disappointed that time,” said Younghusband. “It’s in the past. The team has now gone better and better and we know that we got such a great opportunity here and we’re confident we can do the job.”

However, they first need to contend with a familiar foe in Nepal. Tonight’s match will be their fourth meeting since 2011, and their first competitive match. The Philippines won their last three matches against Nepal, 4-0, 3-0, and 3-0. Nepal advanced to the qualifiers, replacing Kuwait, who are still suspended by FIFA. Last year, Nepal made history by winning the first ever AFC Solidarity Cup following a 1-0 win over Macau.

“It gives us confidence knowing the past results vs Nepal, but (tonight will be) a different game,” added Younghusband. “We have to take every precaution in the best way possible because this will be a different team we face.”

The match kicks off at 8:00 PM and will be shown exclusively via live streaming at http://mycujoo.tv/ch/340?id=4994. — CAL

Philippines, Malaysia Battle to a Fifth Straight Stalemate

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The Philippines were again left frustrated after a scoreless draw against Malaysia last night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. The last time the Philippines won versus the Malaysians was 26 years ago during the 1991 SEA Games.

The draw was their fifth consecutive stalemate dating back to 2012 and their fourth straight 0-0 scoreline. The draw again raised questions about the Azkals’ ability to score.

“We made chances and had possession most of the time. That’s what we expected,” said head coach Thomas Dooley after the match. “We need to score goals to win games so our focus on the next couple of days will be on finishing, finishing, finishing.”

The Philippines could have had the brightest of starts in the opening minute. Amani Aguinaldo teed the ball up for Phil Younghusband in the box. The Azkals skipper looked to have been brought down by a Malaysian defender but the referee waved play on.

Younghusband had a goal disallowed in the eighth minute. The forward was at the end of a Javier Patino feed but the linesman’s flag was up for offside. The captain had another chance in the 20th minute, but his shot was denied by Khairulazhan Khalid.

Concerns mounted at the half hour mark when Misagh Bahadoran went down with a leg injury. Mike Ott came in to replace the winger, but both teams were unable to break the deadlock and finished the first half at 0-0.

The second half saw both teams try to break each other’s defense but to no avail. Substitute Hikaru Minegishi came close for the Philippines in the 72nd minute when the winger was released by Fitch Arboleda but the shot from a tight angle went straight to the goal keeper.

The same can be said for Malaysia. Veenod Subramaniam almost won it for the visitors in the 89th minute. The Malaysian substitute was through on goal and had only Neil Etheridge to beat, but the effort went wide.

Arboleda had the final chance of the game late in added time. The forward unleashed a strike from just the edge of the area but the ball whiskered wide right before the final whistle.

Following the draw, the Philippines now shift their focus to the start of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 Qualifiers which begins with the match against Nepal on Tuesday, March 28 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. Tickets are already available at SM Tickets. — CAL

Philippines Marks Return with Friendly vs Malaysia

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The Philippine Men’s National Team make their much awaited return to the pitch with a FIFA International Friendly Match against Malaysia tonight at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

The match will be the first time the entire team will be together following the AFF Suzuki Cup campaign where the Philippines failed to advance to the next round.

Speaking ahead of the friendly, Azkals coach Thomas Dooley said that he hoped his side gets the better of Malaysia ahead of their AFC Asian Cup qualifier match against Nepal next week. The past four meetings between the two sides ended in draws.

“It’s a long time ago and we feel this is the right time,” said Dooley, who made his debut as Azkals coach against the same opponent. “It’s way too long so we have to prepare for the game. We only play eight games a year and obviously we like to win every game.”

Dooley has a full squad at his disposal. Neil Etheridge, Daisuke Sato, Mike Ott, and Javier Patino, are all available for the friendly. Save from Ott, the three were unavailable during the Suzuki Cup because the tournament did not fall during FIFA International dates. AFC Cup teams Ceres Negros FC and Global FC have a combined total of 15 players in the squad while Loyola Meralco Sparks FC have two players. Stallion Laguna FC and Kaya Makati FC have one player each in the lineup.

“It does come to mind that we haven’t won against Malaysia,” said skipper Phil Younghusband. “If we want to go further, we have to beat the teams that we have yet to beat in the past.”

The match kicks off at 7:30 PM and will be shown live at http://pff.org.ph/pff-tv. — CAL

Philippines-Malaysia Friendly Set for March 22

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After four months of inactivity following their painful AFF Suzuki Cup exit, the Philippine Men’s National Team mark their return to the pitch with a friendly against South East Asian rivals Malaysia on March 22 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

The friendly will be the Azkals’ first foray into action before they begin their AFC Asian Cup 2019 Qualifiers against Nepal on March 28, also at the same venue.

The Philippine Football Federation announced the friendly last February 25, and have recently released the ticket details for the match. Tickets are priced at P500, P300, and P100.

In the latest FIFA rankings unveiled yesterday, the Philippines went down two places to 124, but are still the number one ranked side in the region. Malaysia, on the other hand, are at 161st place.

Malaysia, like the Philippines, endured a forgettable Suzuki Cup campaign, finishing in third place in Group B behind Vietnam and Myanmar. Since 2012, matches between the Philippines and Malaysia have ended in draws. Their last meeting was played at the Cebu City Sports Center in 2014.

The Azkals squad for the friendly and the qualifiers have not been announced yet. However, team manager Dan Palami hinted last month that management is working to secure at least a few overseas based players as squad reinforcements in the lineup.

“We have gotten in touch with some players and hopefully they respond so we can work on their papers,” said Palami. “Their names are all over social media.”

Tickets for the friendly are available at SM Tickets. — CAL

A Painful Lesson: Philippines Eliminated from the Suzuki Cup

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It was not the result that everyone wanted but the Azkals’ elimination may have served as a way to bring everyone back to the ground.

The Philippine Sports Stadium was left stunned when the full-time whistle was blown last Friday. November 25, 2016 will be etched into the minds of Philippine football fans as the day the Philippine Men’s National football team bowed out of the AFF Suzuki Cup group stage for the first time in six years. Perhaps it will be more painful to remember because the Philippines hosted the group stage this year.

At full-time, Thailand coach Kiatisuk Senamuang had just one word for the fans in the stadium:

“Sorry.”

And he truly was apologetic. Thailand had arguably given the Philippines the chance to advance by fielding their second stringers for the match. However, the Azkals failed to convert all their chances and in the 81st minute, Sarawut Masuk broke the hearts of Filipino fans with a winner.

Coach Thomas Dooley was left to rue about the forgettable campaign. If the Philippines had won at least one game instead of drawing 2, they would have advanced to the semifinals.

“We would have liked to go to the next round,” said Dooley. “It’s disappointing but we have to move on.”

Indonesia, who defeated Singapore with a 2-1 come from behind win in Rizal Memorial Stadium, claimed the second semifinal slot at the Azkals’ expense.

Now where does the Philippine team go from here? There are now several questions up in the air.

For a team that had so much promise, the Suzuki Cup exit proved to be a massive disappointment especially as the country was hosting the tournament for the first time. From what could have been a tournament to remember, the campaign became a tournament of what ifs.

What if Neil Etheridge, Daisuke Sato, and Javier Patino were all available during the Suzuki Cup, would it have been a better showing for the Azkals?

Perhaps. But knowing that the Suzuki Cup always falls outside the FIFA international match window, team management could have put more time and effort to secure these players for the tournament. Or, they could have adjusted earlier knowing full well that there really was a huge possibility that the overseas-based players would not be released by their clubs.

Another factor to consider was losing Simone Rota and Patrick Reichelt to injuries. The two injured players, who were part of the 2014 campaign, could have helped the team during the tournament. The absence of these key players left Dooley to field players in unusual positions.

The next edition of the Suzuki Cup will be in two years time, hopefully there will be better communication between the national team and all the clubs concerned both here and abroad.

Still, the 23-man Philippine squad showed some grit during the 2-2 fight back against Indonesia and even in the loss to Thailand.

“The players played with heart and they played what they could as long as their legs kept moving,” said Dooley after the match with Thailand. “They tried to do everything but it is what it is.”

What if the Philippine Sports Stadium was packed to the rafters?

The attendance at the Philippine Sports Stadium were extremely disappointing. With a seating capacity of 25,000, the highest attended match in the Suzuki Cup at the stadium was only 4,300. In contrast, co-hosts Myanmar enjoyed full support in the group stage with attendances averaging almost 30,000 people across all their three match dates.

Both coach Thomas Dooley and the players have asked fans to go out to the Stadium way before the tournament started. But those words seemingly fell on deaf ears and fans were probably not too keen about trekking to the Stadium which is located beyond the outskirts of Manila.

Truth be told, going to the Philippine Sports Stadium is no easy task especially because of the lack of public transport. The Philippine Football Federation made the effort to provide shuttles for the fans, but it was not enough to bring enough warm bodies to the stadium.

One positive takeaway from the fans attendance was the undying support showed by the Ultras Filipinas. The group shouted their hearts out in support of the team, their voices reverberating throughout the stadium and creating an intimidating atmosphere despite the dismal attendance numbers.

What if “that” substitution never happened?

With less than 15 minutes left to salvage a win, Dooley made a sub that arguably decided the Azkals’ campaign. Kevin Ingreso came on for the 17-year-old Marco Casambre, perhaps hoping of shoring up the defense late in the match. That plan ultimately backfired as Thailand scored on the break with nine minutes left from time.

Dooley thought the tactic would work, opting for speed instead of stability in defense. “We needed more speed in defense, that’s why I put (Kevin) in. That was the plan,” the head coach explained after the match.

However, that substitution might not have decided the match had the Philippines converted any of their chances. The Azkals had 12 shots with seven on target. Had any of those seven shots gone in, it could have been a different story altogether.

“We created couple of chances, we had good chances,” added Dooley. “We could have won it in the first half but it is what it is, they have very good players.”

What is next for the Azkals?

After every campaign, the question usually asked is, what’s next? It will be a good four months before the Philippines returns to action on the international stage. The AFC Asian Cup 2019 Qualifiers begin on March 2017.

The next four months will be crucial for Dooley as the Philippines will be matched up against stiff opposition in the qualifiers.

“(We need to) do the right thing to prepare for the Asian Cup and we need to plan for it, like a four-week camp and constant training sessions.” Dooley said when asked about Asian Cup Qualifiers preparations. “It’s something we have to be careful to prepare.”

Captain Phil Younghusband also shared his thoughts moving forward:

“The progression of football has been there and not qualifying to the semifinals is a disappointment, but we still have high expectations because we have good players and we know their quality (moving forward),” Azkals skipper said. “We’ve got (enough) time to look at the games and where we need to learn and improve. The (AFC Asian Cup) Qualifiers will be more difficult because we will be playing countries from all over Asia.”

This Suzuki Cup was the last edition where there will be a host nation. From 2018, the Suzuki Cup will still follow the group stage format, but it will be played home-and-away. The change in format means that while the Philippines will still have the chance to play the group stage matches on home soil, it will not be known how many matches will be hosted in the Philippines until the seeding in the draw.

At the end of the day, the Suzuki Cup elimination may just be the lesson the team and Philippine football fans needed to remember exactly how far they still need to go. For the past six years, Philippine football has dared to chase its dreams. Now, it is time to face reality. — CAL

Semifinals or Bust: Philippines Meets Thailand for Suzuki Cup Semifinal Bid

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The Philippine Men’s National Football team are set to play against Thailand’s War Elephants tonight in their final group game of the Suzuki Cup, 8:00 PM at the Philippine Sports Stadium. The match that could ultimately decide the Azkals Suzuki Cup destiny.

A far cry from their previous Suzuki Cup experience, the Azkals have made this journey far less comfortable, drawing both Singapore and Indonesia in their first two games to end up in second place with two points. Now, they face an all-conquering Thailand side and nothing but a win will put them safely through to the next round.

“This game could be last game but it is also the most important game. There will be a little bit more pressure on the field,” said Coach Thomas Dooley. “Our main focus is on getting the three points.”

Thailand had been an absolute bane for the Philippines since the inception of the Suzuki Cup. Their last meeting came in the Suzuki Cup semifinals where Thailand won the match, 3-0. This time, the War Elephants are less pressured heading to the match having already qualified to the next round.

“Never won against a team and have chance to go the semifinals if you win, sometimes in football, anything can happen,” added Dooley. “We have to prepare 100% and hope Thailand don’t and make a few more mistakes because they already have first place and have nothing to play for.”

The players are also keen to lift the team especially as their backs are against the wall.

“Everybody is ready to play, mentally very strong and positive and this is something we need. I told them from beginning we need to see every game as development of our fitness levels,” continued Dooley. “If we go next round we have another two games and we get fitter by the game. I think that’s positive for us.”

Already assured of a spot to the next round, Thai coach Senamuang may look for his second stringers for the match, but the Thai maestro will not make it easy against the Azkals. Forward Teerasil Dangda has been impressive for the champions, having scored a hat-trick against Indonesia. Midfielder Chanathip Songkrasin has also been on point with his passing.

“For Thailand team, although go to next round already, but tomorrow game is important too,” said Senamuang. “We will give standard for our team.”

Aside from the match in the Philippine Sports Stadium, Singapore and Indonesia also square off at the Rizal Memorial Stadium at the same time. A win for either Singapore or Indonesia, along with a Thailand victory will see the Philippines exit the competition in the group stage for the first time in six years. A draw between the teams in Rizal and a draw for the Philippines and Thailand will be enough for the Azkals to advance.

Both matches kick off at 8 PM, the Azkals match will be shown live on Aksyon TV, Fox Sports, and Fox Sports HD. — CAL

Phil Younghusband Finally Ends His Drought

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Philippine captain Phil Younghusband have scored a lot of goals throughout the years. The midfielder, who played as a forward, had been a constant thorn in oppositions sides with already 42 goals to his name for the Philippines.

However a change in position last year left him in the midfield as the scoring mantle was passed on to Misagh Bahadoran and Javier Patino, and more recently, to Stephan Schrock and Mike Ott. It left Younghusband, who was also named captain last year, unable to add to his tally. Until last night.

With ten minutes remaining in a match where the Philippines were a goal behind against Indonesia, it was Younghusband who was tasked to take the free kick from at least 25 yards out.

“I made sure the keeper was tested that was the most important thing,” said Younghusband.

The Azkals captain kept his composure and struck and magnificent free kick to score his 43rd international goal. The 2,000+ strong crowd at the Philippine Sports Stadium went berserk as the Philippines equalized.

To make it even sweeter, it was Younghusband’s 43rd goal and his first goal in two years. Surprisingly, the midfielder last scored for the Philippines also against Indonesia in the AFF Suzuki Cup two years ago.

“I felt good at the time because it gave us a chance to win the game with ten minutes to go,” added the captain.

However, the winning goal did not materialize as the Philippines settled for a 2-2 draw. Currently the Philippines have two points in Group A with Singapore and Indonesia both a point behind.

It will be an uphill task for the Azkals as Thailand await them on Friday.

“We try to be optimistic. We still have a chance to qualify. That’s the important thing,” Younghusband said. — CAL

Younghusband Keeps Suzuki Cup Semis Bid Alive in Draw vs Indonesia

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Phil Younghusband kept the Philippines in contention for a spot in the semifinals after a nerve-wracking 2-2 draw against Indonesia last night at the Philippine Sports Stadium.
The Azkals captain could not have picked a more perfect way to end his 2-year goal drought. It was a well taken free kick in the 82nd minute to keep the race for the second semifinal spot alive heading in to the final match day on Friday.
“It was an exciting game,” said coach Thomas Dooley after the match. “Overall I think 2-2 scoreline is okay even if (Indonesia) had plenty of chances to win.”
Thomas Dooley made two changes in an otherwise unchanged squad. Martin Steuble started over Kenshiro Daniels at right back while Hikaru Minegishi made his first international start over Iain Ramsay.
Indonesia, who had improved from their last meeting in 2014, took a shock lead in the seventh minute. Fachruddin Aryanto sent a free header past Muller after the Azkals defense broke following Stefano Lilipally’s free kick.
The early goal set the tone of the match as Indonesia looked the more threatening side with their pace. However, the Philippine struck gold in the 31st minute, also from the set piece. Misagh Bahadoran slotted the ball in from close range at the end of Stephan Schrock’s free kick. The first half ended at 1-1.
The start of the second half saw the Philippines almost score the go ahead goal. Schrock released Bahadoran but the shot was straight to the side netting.
Indonesia then started to look threatening. Andik Vermansyah came close for the visitors in the 61st minute but his effort was denied by the post. The Merah Puti’s efforts paid off in the 68th minute when Boas Solozza struck to put Indonesia ahead for a second time.
With elimination from the tournament looming, the Azkals willed themselves to another comeback. Younghusband was brought down in the 81st minute and it set the tone for the captain’s return to his goalscoring ways.

From at least 25 yards out, Younghusband struck the ball beautifully into the top left corne. Pandemonium broke out around the stadium in the 82nd minute. It was the captain’s first goal in two years. Younghusband’s last goal was also in the Suzuki Cup against the same opposition.

In the opening match, Thailand qualified into the next around after defeating Singapore 1-0. Sarawut Masuk headed in a winner to break Singapore’s hearts after the Lions had been defending well for the whole of the match.

Thailand leads Group A with six points while the Philippines are in second with two points Singapore and Indonesia are just behind with a point apiece. Friday’s match will decide who will advance into the semifinals. The Philippines face Thailand at the Philippine Sports Stadium while Singapore face Indonesia at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. Kick off for both matches is at 8:00 PM. — CAL

Philippines Face Indonesia to Keep Semis Bid Alive

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The stakes might not get any higher as the Philippines look to keep their AFF Suzuki Cup 2016 semifinals hopes alive tonight when they play Indonesia at the Philippine Sports Stadium.

The Azkals were left to rue their chances as they blew the opportunity to defeat Singapore. Despite getting their fair share of chances the Philippines failed to defeat a 10-man Singapore side last Saturday.

“Both teams have to win,” said Philippines coach Thomas Dooley. “This is a game that you could win, lose, or even tie. We just have to play our style.”

The Merah Puti have been a thorn in the Philippines side for quite a long time. The 13-1 hammering in 2002 is probably the most lopsided against the Azkals. However, the Azkals were blazing in their last meeting two years ago also in the Suzuki Cup. The Azkals finished off the Merah Puti with a 4-0 rout.

Indonesia gave a bit of a scare to defending champions Thailand in the opening match of Group A last Saturday. Goals from Boas Solossa and Lerby Eliandry put Indonesia on level terms after they went down 2-nil in the first half, but two late strikes from Teerasil Dangda ruined what could have been a memorable comeback.

One concern that has bothered the Azkals is player fitness. However, Dooley noted that the further this team could go, the better they could be as far as fitness is concerned.

“I have told my players that the longer we stay in the tournament, the more we will improve,” added Dooley. “We have to try to play smart and get our fitness levels up.”

The match kicks off at 8:00 PM at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bulacan. It will be shown live on Aksyon TV, Fox Sports, and Fox Sports HD. – CAL