Tag Archives: FIFA World Cup Qualifiers

Philippines Defeat DPR Korea 3-2

Icko De Guzman No Comments

The Philippine Men’s National Team fought until the end to claim it’s biggest win to date in a 3-2 win over DPR Korea, Tuesday night at the historic Rizal Memorial Stadium.

The match had no bearing for a spot in the next round of the World Cup 2018 Qualifiers. However, a win against a side that reached the World Cup twice before — and a loss by Bahrain to Uzbekistan in the other group match — would be enough for a spot in the Asian Cup Qualifiers.

The Azkals showed grit at a time when the odds were stacked against them. Goals from Manny Ott and Iain Ramsay in the second half lifted the Philippines to a historic win over North Korea and a third place finish ahead of Bahrain, who were humbled by Uzbekistan, 1-0, in the other Group H game.

It was a very different match compared to their first meeting, a 0-0 draw in Pyongyang last October.

Coach Thomas Dooley handed Miguel Tanton his first start in the Azkals lineup. Neil Etheridge retained the number one spot. Simone Rota, Amani Aguinaldo, Daisuke Sato, and the retiring Juani Guirado started in the back four. Luke Woodland, Ott, Tanton, and Martin Steuble manned the midfield. Javier Patino and Misagh Bahadoran were deployed up front.

The first real chance for the Azkals came in the 15th minute. Manny Ott found Patino with a free kick, but the forward powered his shot straight to DPR Korea’s Ri Myong Guk.

The visitors came close to taking the lead a minute later. Pak Kwang Ryong’s initial effort was denied by Etheridge but the rebound fell to Ri Hyok Chol, who sent his effort over.

Etheridge heroics were needed again in the 34th minute. The goalkeeper denied So Hyun Ok’s shot from close range.

With just minutes left before the end of the first half, the Azkals finally broke through. Patino made a run towards the box, but saw his shot denied. Bahadoran was in the perfect position to head in the rebound in the 43rd minute.

However, the celebrations were cut short in stoppage right before the half-time whistle blew. So Kyong Jin sent his shot past Etheridge after a goal-mouth scramble to end the half at 1-1.

Ramsay came in at the half, replacing Woodland. DPR Korea took the lead three minutes into the second half. Ri Hyok Chol made amends for his miss in the 15th minute by slotting home a low shot after a number of goal line clearances made by the Azkals.

With just 15 minutes left to salvage their campaign, Dooley brought on the returning James Younghusband for Bahadoran. That decision paid dividends as the Azkals searched for an equalizer.

The comeback rally reached its fever point in the 83rd minute. After a good spell of possession, the Azkals displayed exquisite passing between Patino, Tanton, and finally Ott. Ott sent a low left-footed shot past the goalkeeper to set a thrilling last salvo for the match.

Instead of just celebrating, the Azkals were relentless on the pitch and at the 90th minute mark, the Azkals finally took the lead. Steuble sent the ball in for Patino. The forward then fed the ball to the better-positioned Ramsay, who scored the winner and sent the 7,351 fans in Rizal jumping up in jubilation.

With third place in the group secured, the Azkals await who they will meet in the third round of the 2019 Asian Cup Qualifiers. The third round matches begin in 2017.

For now, this is a moment to savor for everyone, for the team and the staff, and for Philippine football. — CAL

Juani Guirado: I Will Miss Everything

Icko De Guzman No Comments

It was Juan Luis Guirado’s turn at the microphone during the pre-match press conference for the Philippines versus DPR Korea. Everybody thought he would just exchange pleasantries with the media and perhaps give a brief statement about his thoughts on the upcoming match. That’s what Juani usually did, anyway.

But not this time.

When the 36-year-old defender took a breath after his usual greetings to the people in attendance, he took his phone out and read a statement saying that the game against DPR Korea would be his last for the Philippines.

“I want to announce that tomorrow will be my last game for the national team,” said Guirado calmly.

After a total of 38 games with the Azkals, 33 of them in FIFA A matches, Guirado has decided to finally call time on his Azkals career.

“I will miss everything,” said the defender. “The opportunity to play football with this group has been amazing.”

Guirado was a late bloomer as far as the Azkals were concerned. He made his debut at the age of 32 against Malaysia in February 2012. His arrival came at an opportune time. Azkals skipper Aly Borromeo had been sidelined with an ACL injury, and there were concerns about the Azkals heading to the Challenge Cup that year especially on the defensive end.

The man from Malaga was the right reinforcement for the Azkals, steering the team to a third place finish in the Challenge Cup by scoring the winning goal in the 4-3 win over Palestine.

“I will always remember (the Challenge Cup) in Nepal,” Guirado reminisced, “I scored my first (international) goal there vs Palestine.”

Guirado served for several more tournaments, helping win the Peace Cup in 2013. The defender also skippered the team last week against Uzbekistan and will captain one last time in his final game.

Despite calling time on his Azkals career, Guirado maintained that the future is bright for the Azkals defensive line. The defender noted that the young players in the lineup, particularly Amani Aguinaldo, has a promising future ahead of him.

“You see a lot of young players coming (to the squad),” said Guirado. “They have to learn more.”

And on his last match for the Philippines? The soft-spoken Guirado had this to say, “We will give our best.” As he always has.

The Philippines face DPR Korea tonight, 8:00pm at Rizal Memorial Stadium. — CAL

Philippines Battles DPR Korea

Icko De Guzman No Comments

The Philippine Men’s National Football Team is set to finish their 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers campaign when they take on DPR Korea tonight at 8:00pm at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Already out of the running for a spot in the next round of the World Cup Qualifiers, the Azkals are fighting for position in the next round of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers. Currently, the Azkals are in fourth place in Group H, two points behind third-placed Bahrain.

A win for the Azkals will see them finish third, provided that Bahrain lose to Uzbekistan. Finishing in third will allow the Philippines to gain an outright spot to the next round of the Asian Cup Qualifiers. A fourth place finish might see them go through the play-off stage unless they are among the best fourth placed teams at the end of the round.

“We’re looking forward for the game,” said Azkals coach Thomas Dooley. “It’s always special when we play at home.”

Coming off a narrow 1-0 loss to Uzbekistan last week, the former United States captain only had praises to his team despite the hardship they encountered during the Qualifiers.

“I’m very proud [of the team] no matter what the result,” added Dooley but he added, “We want to end this round with a victory.”

Still deprived of squad regulars Phil Younghusband, Stephan Schrock, Stephan Palla, and Kevin Ingreso, Dooley has welcomed the return of Misagh Bahadoran and Manny Ott to the squad. The pair were suspended against Uzbekistan due to accumulated yellow cards.

“I’m looking forward for those two quality players in the lineup,” continued Dooley. “They are experienced players and they can add a lot to the team.”

Dooley also expects that the three additions to the squad will also make an impact. James Younghusband, Daniel Gadia, and Miguel Tanton were called up to the squad.

“(James, Daniel, and Miguel) are actually showing (in training) what we would like to see from them,” said Dooley.

The match against DPR Korea might potentially be Dooley’s last match in the Azkals hot seat. According to PFF General-Secretary Atty. Edwin Gastanes, they will sit down and discuss the future after the match.

Tickets are still available at TicketWorld and at the venue. — CAL

Azkals Squad for Uzbekistan and DPR Korea Matches

Icko De Guzman No Comments

On Monday, the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) released the 34-man training pool list for the final two 2018 FIFA World Cup and 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers matches at the end of the month.

After a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat against Yemen last November, Azkals Coach Thomas Dooley wants to finish the group stage on a high note with the aim of finishing in third place ahead of fourth-placed Bahrain.

The Azkals face Uzbekistan in Tashkent on Maundy Thursday, March 24, and then DPR Korea on March 29 at Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Dooley enlisted eight new players to inject younger blood into an Azkals squad which just lost the evergreen skipper Rob Gier to retirement.

Loyola Meralco’s Jorrel Aristorenas, Daniel Gadia, and Kouichi Belgira, Global’s Marco Casambre and Mark Winhoffer, San Beda’s Ashley Flores and Jay Shaun Sobreano, and Kaya’s Dominic Del Rosario complete the fresh faces in the Azkals lineup.

Global FC’s Omid Nazari has also been called up by Dooley for the training sessions. The Filipino-Iranian had experience playing in Sweden and the Iranian national team. Because he has not played in a FIFA-sanctioned match for Iran, Nazari is still eligible to play for either Sweden, his birthplace, or the Philippines.

Dooley has also recalled Stallion’s Fitch Arboleda, Kaya’s Jovin Bedic, Global’s OJ Clarino, and Loyola Meralco’s Tommy Trigo back to the lineup. Arboleda, Bedic, and Trigo were previously called up by Dooley in 2014 while Clarino was last called up in 2013.

Neil Etheridge, Jerry Lucena, Roland Muller, Stephan Palla, Iain Ramsay, and Luke Woodland were also called up to the squad.

Training list:
1. AGUINALDO, Amani Manuel
2. ARBOLEDA, Fitch
3. ARISTORENAS, Jorrel Zachary
4. BEDIC, Jovin
5. BELGIRA, Kou Ichi
6. BUGAS, Paolo
7. CASAMBRE, Marco Alessandro
8. CLARIÑO, Mario Javier
9. DEL ROSARIO, Dominic Liam
10. DEYTO, Patrick Phillip
11. FLORES, Jim Ashley
12. GADIA, Daniel Bernan
13. NAZARI, Omid
14. PATIÑO, Javier
15. SATO, Daisuke
16. SOBERANO, Jay Shaun
17. TRIGO, Tomas Angel
18. VILLANUEVA, Dennis
19. WINHOFFER, Mark Anthony
20. YOUNGHUSBAND, Philip James
21. DANIELS, Kenshiro Michael *
22. GUIRADO, Juan Luis *
23. INGRESO, Kevin *
24. MULDERS, Paul *
25. PORTERIA, Jose Elmer *
26. REICHELT, Patrick *
27. SCHROCK, Stephan Markus *
28. STEUBLE, Martin Markus *
29. ETHERIDGE, Neil Leonard
30. LUCENA, Jerry Ruben
31. MULLER, Roland Richard
32. PALLA, Stephan
33. RAMSAY, Iain
34. WOODLAND, Luke
* Only available after their AFC Cup matches on March 15. — CAL

Heartbreak: Yemen Upend Philippines in World Cup Qualifiers

Julius Tabios No Comments

The Philippine Azkals took on Yemen knowing that it was a must win fixture to keep their dying World Cup quest alive. Even though they missed the services of stars Phil Younghusband and Neil Etheridge, the Azkals supposedly had enough to secure the full three points against the Yemenis.

Coach Thomas Dooley was sure complacency against a lower ranked Yemen team was not going to be an issue. With former Bundesliga player Stephan Schrock captaining his first match for the Azkals in lieu of the suspended Phil Younghusband, the Azkals were favored coming into this game.

Right from kick-off, the Azkals displayed their attacking intent. They sent the ball forward and tried to work the ball into the box. The Azkals won a free kick just outside the box early on and connected on a header but it went just wide. They had a number of clear-cut chances from crosses and through balls but lacked the composure and fluidity to bang them in. The Azkals’ lone striker and Chinese Super League star Javier Patiño was a well-marked man. But the heroics of Yemen captain and goalkeeper Mohammed Ebrahim Ali Ayash remained the heart and soul of the Yemeni defense. The match remained goalless at half time.

After the break it was the Yemenis who were pressing forward more and they forced the Philippine defenders to drop deeper than Coach Dooley liked. Yemen started testing the younger rearguard and Roland Muller with seemingly increasing chances. With the game nearing stoppage time, it was Ahmed Al-Sarori who played the part of super-sub and he slotted a seemingly weak shot right past an all alone Müller.

That woke up the Azkals and they pushed forward. But it was too little, too late. There was heartbreak for the fans and the Azkals as the Yemenis celebrated their first goal and their first win of the World Cup Qualifiers.

In a post-game interview Coach Dooley lamented at how the Azkals lack of training and match sharpness were a big factor in the upset. It is interesting to note that the 2015 regular season of the UFL ended in July while most of the foreign-based players only get a couple of days of training with the team.  Dooley then mentioned that the Yemeni squad prepared for this fixture with roughly five times a week training over the course of two months. The end result was a much sharper and fluid Yemen team, a far cry from the team the Philippines beat 2-0 in Doha, Qatar earlier this year.

After some encouraging results like a 2-1 win over Bahrain earlier this year and a draw against DPR Korea, this match served as a reminder that the Azkals still have a long way to go. — CAL

Philippines World Cup Qualifiers Campaign Continues Against Yemen

Icko De Guzman No Comments

The Philippine Men’s National Football team will play their final 2018 FIFA World Cup/2019 AFC Asian Cup Joint Qualifiers of the year against Yemen tonight at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.

As things stand, the Philippines are in third place in Group H with seven points, with two wins, two losses, and one draw. DPR Korea and Uzbekistan lead the group with 13 and nine points, respectively.

How crucial is the game against Yemen?

The Azkals need to win against Yemen. Azkals coach Thomas Dooley said in the pre-match press conference that the game against Yemen is “an absolutely must-win game.”

“I believe in this team and if everyone shows up (for the match), we have a good chance to win,” Dooley said.

A win will see the Philippines live to fight another day provided that least Uzbekistan drop crucial points against DPR Korea. The two teams will also meet tonight at 9:00 PM Manila time.

A draw or a defeat will put the Philippines in the perilous position of missing directly qualifying into the third round of the World Cup Qualifiers and a direct slot in the Asian Cup finals. The Azkals would have to fight for third place where a spot in the third round of the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers is up for grabs.

Do the Azkals need to score as many goals as they can?

Not only do the Azkals need to win against Yemen, they also have to win convincingly — by pouring on a hefty number of goals.

The Philippines have not scored in their last two matches. Stephan Schrock’s 65th minute consolation against Uzbekistan last September 8 was the last goal scored in the Qualifiers.

If the Philippines will contend for a spot in the next round of the World Cup Qualifiers, they have to improve on their goal difference, which is currently at -3.

The Rizal Memorial Stadium has already witnessed a number of high-scoring matches in recent times. However, as far as scoring is concerned, Dooley is wary that it will get into the players’ heads. The Philippines have conceded a total of seven goals in the past three games, (five against Uzbekistan and two against Bahrain).

“If a player comes into the game thinking we have to score 4-5 goals, we will lose,” said Dooley. “We need points, and in defense, no goals against us.”

Who is in and out of the lineup?

Skipper Phil Younghusband will miss the match due to suspension. Younghusband picked up his second yellow card of the tournament in the loss against Bahrain last month. Luke Woodland will also miss the match because of commitments with his new club, Chester City F.C.

Striker Javier Patino is back in the squad after missing the matches versus DPR Korea and Bahrain. Roland Muller will make his first Azkals start after six months according to Dooley. First-choice goalkeeper Neil Etheridge will miss the match because of an injury.

Is the Yemen game the Azkals’ last match of the year?

The FIFA International break will end next week on November 17th. As of this writing, there are no more scheduled matches for the Philippines in this international break. The next International break will be on March 21-29, 2016 where the Azkals will face Uzbekistan in Tashkent on March 24, 2016 and DPR Korea here at home on March 29, 2016.

Kick off is at 8 PM tonight. We hope you’ll be watching too. — CAL

Philippines Squad List Versus Yemen

Ceres A. Lina No Comments

Less than a week before the Philippines faces Yemen, the Philippine Football Federation finally came out with the 23-man squad list for the World Cup Qualifiers match.

Aguinaldo, Amani
Bahadoran, Misagh
Daniels, Kenshiro
Deyto, Patrick
Etheridge, Neil
Gier, Rob
Guirado, Juani
Ingreso, Kevin
Lucena, Jerry
Mulders, Paul
Muller, Roland
Ott, Manuel
Palla, Stephan
Patiño, Javier
Porteria, OJ
Ramsay, Iain
Reichelt, Patrick
Rota, Simone
Sato, Daisuke
Schrock, Stephan
Steuble, Martin
Villanueva, Dennis
Younghusband, Phil

Luke Woodland will be unable to join the squad for their last match of the year. Woodland recently signed a short-term contract with Chester City F.C., which plays in England’s National League.

Phil Younghusband will be unable to play due to suspension because of card accumulation.

Javier Patiño rejoins the squad after missing the games against DPR Korea and Bahrain because of an injury sustained during a match with his club team.

The World Cup Qualifiers match versus Yemen will be on Thursday, November 12, 2015, at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. Tickets are available here. (LINK)

The World Cup Qualifiers: Where Are We Now?

Football.com.ph No Comments

After the loss to Bahrain last Tuesday advancing to the next round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers is a tall order for the Philippines.

Currently, the Azkals are third in Group H with seven points. Fourth-placed Bahrain, who won 2-0, inched closer to the Philippines with six points while Yemen remain at the bottom of the table with 0 points.

The Philippines continues their World Cup Qualifier campaign against Yemen on November 12, 2015 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. A win against Yemen might allow the Azkals to get some breathing space from Bahrain and put pressure on Uzbekistan, who are in second place with 9 points. DPR Korea is already ahead with 13 points and is set to top the group.

Can the Philippines still advance to the next round of the World Cup Qualifers?

As it stands, the Philippines can only top the group and automatically qualify to the next round provided they they win all their remaining matches in Group H and both DPR Korea and Uzbekistan drop points in their next fixtures.

The other way for the Azkals to advance is to be one of the four best second-placed teams at the end of the second round. The winners from each group along with the four best second-placed teams will advance to the next round of the World Cup Qualifiers and automatically gain a spot in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.

However, because of the suspension of Indonesia by FIFA, the second-placed team in Group F will have played less matches than in other groups. To balance the rankings, the results against the lowest ranked team in their group will not be counted. The guidelines below will be used to determine the four best second-placed teams.

  • Number of points obtained
  • Goal difference in all group matches
  • Most number of goals
  • Fewer number of points calculated based on the number of yellow and red cards incurred
  • Drawing of lots

In the latest ranking of the second-placed teams Kuwait and Japan lead the pack with seven points and a +9 goal difference apiece. Uzbekistan and Australia are tied at six points but the Central Asians have a better goal differential at +7 compared to Australia’s +2. However, Kuwait might be in the same boat as Indonesia, as FIFA has also threatened the Middle Eastern country with suspension because of government interference. Indonesia was suspended on the same account.

All this being said, the opportunity to be one of the four best second-placed will be difficult as the Philippines need to improve on their -3 goal difference. The Philippines have scored five goals and conceded eight in the Qualifiers.

If the Philippines fail to advance to the next round of the World Cup Qualifiers, will it be the end of the road for the Azkals?

Yes and no. The Philippines will be eliminated from the World Cup Qualifiers BUT they will still be in contention for the remaining slots for the Asian Cup. The Asian Football Confederation decided before the draw that both the World Cup Qualifiers and the Asian Cup Qualifiers will be merged in the first and second round. The AFC has yet to calendar the schedule for the third round of the Asian Cup Qualifiers.

We can still qualify for the Asian Cup.

What does it mean for the Philippines to qualify to the Asian Cup?

It’s a big opportunity for the Philippines if they qualify to the Asian Cup. They almost did it last year when they finished as runners up to Palestine in the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup. In previous years, the winner of the Challenge Cup earned a spot in the Asian Cup.

Qualifying to the Asian Cup means that the Azkals will complete with the top teams not just in the South East Asian region but the rest of Asia as well. It would, in a word, be ginormous for Philippine football. — CAL

Still Believing

Icko De Guzman No Comments

Losing 0-2 against hosts Bahrain was far from what we expected.  But that’s football.

Looking back to the World Cup Qualifiers draw, it was easy to dismiss the Azkals and say that we won’t even have a chance in this group. But we’re still in a position to surprise the world.

Drawing North Korea in Pyongyang was an unimaginable feat in Philippine football history.  But we held our own and got a favorable result in the end.

Though we got collateral damage with the Bahrain setback, our destiny is still in our hands.

With one more game this year — against Yemen in November — and two tough games against the group leaders next year, we still have a chance to make this work.

A favorable result against Yemen would be a good start. Doing our homework against DPR Korea and Uzbekistan with four months headstart is ideal.

This is football, and anything can happen.

No one said it was going to be easy. Everything will be difficult.

As a young footballing nation, this is a great learning experience for us. The unique World Cup qualifying format may just open the doors for a new generation of Azkals to thrive and prosper.

This is a long term project. Champions are not built overnight but through generations of pain and heartache.

I’m proud of how the boys played in a gruelling schedule. You can only ask for so much given that first game was physically and emotionally draining.

Nobody gave up up to the last minute, showing the true character of this team.

We can still do this. We can still make the third round.

If there’s two things the Filipino is good at, it is making the most out of the worst situations and smiling through adversity.

History is yet to be made and it starts now.

I believe. We Believe.

Let’s do this.


Ivan Gayares is the brain behind The Perfect Pass. This Bacolodnon is a full-time IT Business Analyst and football fanatic, a part-time writer, and sometimes (free of charge) scout. He has a favorite team in the UFL.

Philippines Yield to Bahrain

Icko De Guzman No Comments

The Philippines’ chances of advancing to the next round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers took a huge blow as Bahrain came away with a 2-0 win Tuesday night at the Bahrain National Stadium in Riffa.

It was a costly match to lose as the Azkals remained in third place with seven points while Bahrain inched closer to them with six points. Ismael Abdulatif and Sayed Adnan scored for Bahrain in the second half to hand the Philippines their second loss in the Qualifiers.

Coach Thomas Dooley opted for the conventional 4-4-2 formation instead of the 3-5-2 formation utilized in previous World Cup Qualifiers matches. There were two changes in the starting XI from the draw against DPR Korea. Kevin Ingreso and Stephan Palla started ahead of Iain Ramsay and Luke Woodland.

The Azkals started the match brightly. Skipper Phil Younghusband had a chance to put his side ahead at the start of the match. The skipper, who was deployed up front, eased his way past the defense but his left footed shot was saved. Younghusband had a second opportunity to put the Philippines ahead right before half-time. Stephan Schrock placed his header into the path of the Azkals captain but he could only direct his header wide. The first half ended scoreless.

The hosts scored twice inside the first fifteen minutes of the second half. Abdulatif was found free in the box and slotted from close range in the 53rd minute. Adnan doubled the lead from a free kick in the 61st minute.

The Azkals tried to salvage the match, but were left frustrated by the Bahrain defense. The match finished 2-0 in favor of Bahrain.

The Philippines’ next match in the Qualifiers will be against Yemen on November 12 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. — CAL

Updates to your inbox!

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner