Tag Archives: Phil Younghusband

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:


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

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

Throwback: Ten Suzuki Cup Moments for the Azkals

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With the AFF Suzuki Cup set to kick off in a couple of days, Football.com.ph has come up with a bit of a throwback to look at several dates that the Azkals played in the tournament thus far.

The Philippines have participated in every installment of the Suzuki Cup except in 2008 when they failed to advance past the qualifying round. In all, the Philippines has played 36 games (including semifinals) winning six games, drawing five, and losing 25.

We have selected a number of matches from the past to remind us how far the Philippines has gone, and how far we have yet to go.

September 2, 1996 – The first ever Suzuki Cup match: Philippines 0-5 Thailand
It was a painful start for the Azkals in the Suzuki Cup as they yielded to Thailand, 5-0 at the Jurong Stadium in Singapore. Current Thailand head coach Kiatisuk Senamuang scored in that game in the 14th minute.

August 29, 1998 – Freddy Gonzales scores the first ever Suzuki Cup goal: Thailand 3-1 Philippines
Former Loyola Meralco Sparks striker Freddy Gonzales opened the Philippines’ account in the tournament with a 30th minute strike. However, Thailand scored thrice to claim the win at the Thong Nhat Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

December 23, 2002 – Indonesia 13-1 Philippines
Going into the last match of the group stage, Indonesia needed to win big to advance to the semifinal round. The Philippines were the opposition that evening at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium and it only took the Garudas 16 minutes to score three goals as the match ended in a 13-1 rout. Former Ceres-La Salle head coach and now technical director Ali Go scored the consolation in the 78th minute.

December 14, 2004 – Caligdong Leaves it Late To Claim Maiden Suzuki Cup Win: Philippines 2-1 Timor Leste
Emelio “Chieffy” Caligdong could not have asked for a better debut. The current Azkals assistant coach came off the bench to score twice in the dying minutes of the match to claim a 2-1 win over Timor Leste at the Bukit Jalil Stadium in Malaysia. It was the Azkals’ first ever win in the competition. Caligdong’s goals were timed in the 91st and 93rd minutes.

November 14, 2006 – Phil Younghusband has Arrived: Philippines 7-0 Timor Leste
Facing the same opposition they defeated two years prior, the Younghusband-powered Philippines ran riot and scored seven goals past Timor Leste in the AFF qualifiers held at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City. Current Azkals topscorer Phil Younghusband opened his account with a four goal romp as he went on to become the top scorer of the qualifiers. Chris Greatwich, Ariel Zerrudo, and Caligdong also found the back of the net.

October 23, 2008 – Azkals Miss Out on Suzuki Cup: Cambodia 2-3 Philippines
The Philippines missed out on the big dance for the very first time despite winning their final game against Cambodia, 2-3. Aly Borromeo, Greatwich, and Chad Gould netted for the Azkals in front of 15,000 Cambodian fans. However, Cambodia won their final match against Brunei to advance to the final rounds scoring nine goals to the Philippines’ six.

October 24, 2010 – Younghusbands Send Azkals to Hanoi: Philippines 2-2 Laos
Losing to Laos by two goals with less than 15 minutes left, the Azkals pulled off a Harry Houdini to clinch a point in a thrilling 2-2 draw. Phil Younghusband scored a penalty in the 76th minute that was followed up by a James Younghusband equalizer in the 94th minute. A draw against Cambodia two days later confirmed their participation in the final rounds in Hanoi

December 5, 2010 – Hanoi Miracle: Philippines 2-0 Vietnam
They were expected to lose. They were expected to be humiliated in front of 40,000 Vietnamese fans at the My Dinh Stadium. But on that warm day in Hanoi, everything went the other way. The Philippines defeated Vietnam 2-0 to turn a few heads. Vietnam were reigning champions and the loss to the Philippines cracked their invulnerability. Greatwich broke the deadlock in the 38th minute and Phil Younghusband, who was sick that day, clinched the upset in the 79th minute.

November 27, 2012 – Hail to the Ch13f: Vietnam 0-1 Philippines
Vietnam and the Philippines squared off once again two years after that fateful December night. This time the venue was the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok. Both teams were deadlocked at 0-0 with four minutes left when Angel Guirado launched a long ball to find Caligdong free in the box. The substitute nailed Vietnam’s coffin shut with a sublime strike past the goalkeeper to win it for the Philippines.

November 25, 2014 – Indonesia Vanquished: Philippines 4-0 Indonesia
The memory of the 13-1 game in 2002 may still have been on everyone’s mind heading into this match. Phil Younghusband scored a 16th minute penalty to put the Philippines ahead at the half. Tense moments followed in the second half as Indonesia applied pressure, but Manny Ott doubled the advantage with a terrific strike in the 52nd minute. Martin Steuble sneaked in a cleverly-timed indirect free kick to make it 3-0 before Rob Gier surprised everyone with a goal 11 minutes from time. The win was the Azkals’ first over the Indonesians in 80 years and allowed them to advance to the semifinals for the third straight time.

Ten games, ten results that made massive impacts on the Azkals in the Suzuki Cup. Will there be more good results and stories to tell this year? One thing’s for sure, this tournament is definitely going to be exciting.

A Crucial Test: Azkals Face DPR Korea

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After a shock 1-3 loss to Bahrain last Friday, the Philippine national team look to gather themselves as they face DPR Korea tonight, 8:00 PM at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

The loss to Bahrain served as a timely wake up call for the Azkals. The Philippines were outperformed by their opponents, who scored twice within the opening few minutes of either half before adding a third goal late in the match. Azkals coach Thomas Dooley remained unfazed however, knowing that these two games are part of their preparation for the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup which kicks off next month.

“The last game (against Bahrain) and this game against North Korea (are part of) a learning process,” said Dooley in the pre-match press conference. “The process does not come over night, it takes months, sometimes it takes years to develop what we want.”

This will be the fourth meeting between the two sides. DPR Korea claimed a 2-0 win in the opening match of the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup in Nepal.

The last two meetings were in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. In their first match-up in the Qualifiers last year, the Azkals escaped Pyongyang with a scoreless draw in front of a capacity crowd.

Their recent meeting will probably go down as one of the most memorable Azkals matches in recent history. Down 1-2 with ten minutes left, the Azkals scored twice late in the match to snatch an emphatic 3-2 win over DPR Korea and finish the Qualifiers on a high note. Misagh Bahadoran, Manny Ott, and Iain Ramsay were on target that night, helping to send DPR Korea out of the World Cup Qualifiers.

Dooley will use the match as a way to develop every single player on the roster ahead of the Suzuki Cup. Against Bahrain, Dooley deployed the likes of Paolo Bugas, Fitch Arboleda, and Daniel Gadia to allow the younger members of the team ample playing time and gain valuable experience as part of the National Team.

“This game is important for the development (of the players),” added Dooley. “I want to play good football, it’s wishful thinking but (at the end), the result is the most important thing.”

Azkals team captain Phil Younghusband echoed Dooley’s words.

“It will be a good test for us, knowing what a good team North Korea are,” said the skipper. “We’re all excited, and it will be a good game.”

The match will be show on a delayed basis on Sports + Action but will be live on its streaming site. Sports + Action’s telecast will start at 9:00 PM.– CAL

Philippines, Kyrgyzstan Battle in Bishkek

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The Philippine Men’s National Team is set to lock horns with 105th-ranked Kyrgyzstan tonight, 8:30 PM (10:30 PM Manila time) at the Dolen Omurzakov Stadium in Bishkek.

It will be the first time that the two nations will face each other. Kyrgyzstan are coming off a 2-0 win over Kazakhstan last week. The Philippines will face Kyrgyzstan one more time on November 9 at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bulacan.

Coach Thomas Dooley is not resting on his laurels ahead of this friendly match. With vital FIFA ranking points up for grabs, the Azkals coach called up several overseas-based players, namely Neil Etheridge, Daisuke Sato, and Iain Ramsay.

“This friendly has a lot at stake,” said Dooley last week during the Azkals’ training session in Manila. “(Kyrgyzstan) are a great team and it’s important to get good results to move up in the rankings.”

Azkals skipper Phil Younghusband, who made his return to the squad after almost a year, echoed Dooley’s sentiments.

“We don’t know a lot about Kyrgyzstan,” said Younghusband. “They’re a strong team and it will be a good test for us.”

However, the forward is also concerned that the travel to Bishkek might affect the team’s performance. The Azkals left Manila last Saturday and arrived in Bishkek late Sunday.

“Traveling is a part of (being in) the national team,” added Younghusband. “Sometimes it’s difficult to adjust after a long trip.”

It may be the only match for the Azkals this month after the Turkmenistan game fell through, but Team Manager Dan Palami hopes that they can iron out everything in the crucial stages of their preparation for the Suzuki Cup.

“It hasn’t been the ideal preparation as we would have wanted,” said Palami. “Hopefully we are able to recover in the next few months. We still have time and hopefully, (the preparation) will be better.”

There will be no local coverage for the match here in the Philippines, however, the Football Federation of the Kyrgyz Republic has indicated that there will be coverage in Bishkek. Details to follow on social media. — CAL

It Won’t Be Easy: Azkals vs White Wolves

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The last training session for the Azkals before the Uzbekistan match started out much the same way.

The players trickled on to the pitch one by one or in pairs grabbing a ball to kick around before warm ups. The coaches and Mr. Palami were already there, trying to get goals from right by the corners. It was incredibly humid at the Philippine Sports Stadium, the humidity heralding the coming onslaught of rain.

But the match commissioner for the game against Uzbekistan is incredibly strict, and he had the media and onlookers ushered out of the training area after fifteen minutes.

“The energy and the emotions are great,” said coach Thomas Dooley at the pre-match press conference earlier in the day. “I hope everything is right for us.”

Intense is probably the right word to use about the Azkals training sessions since before the Maldives friendly.

Sure the Azkals still joke around at training. Misagh still trash talks everyone and their moms about how they play. Rob mischievously dropped some ice down Neil’s shirt while he was being interviewed by a couple of TV outfits. They even gamely pose for and with the fans that drop in even before training is officially over. (Something that fans and supporters should never do, by the way.)

But there is an underlying current of intensity and seriousness surrounding the team like never before. It feels like the kind of thoughtfulness a student goes through before a major exam that he’s studied night and day for, but still…

“This is the game that you’re waiting for. You’re waiting for teams, they are above you… We are totally the underdogs.” Dooley knows what he’s talking about, he led the US to qualify for the World Cup Finals against perhaps virtually insurmountable odds.

The team knows this isn’t going to be an easy match. Phil Younghusband couldn’t compare it to any situation he’s been in before. He started out with a comparison to Vietnam in 2010 but stopped short. “We had no expectations then, but we sort of have expectations now,” said the captain with a wry smile. “We know what Uzbekistan have to offer, but we also know what we have to offer.”

The team knows this isn’t going to be an easy match. But that intensity at training also comes with a strange kind of confidence, even faced with an opponent 49 places ahead in the world rankings, whose player Server Djeparov has won the Asian Football Confederation Player of The Year Award. Twice. “(When out on the pitch) I don’t think about it,” said Phil. “I think about myself, my teammates, and us playing the best we can, and I know if we play the best we can, we can get a good result.”

The team knows this isn’t going to be an easy match. Onlookers have said time and again that this may be the best Philippine football team, ever. Dooley and Phil seem a bit wary to agree with that wholeheartedly. “I know that our team is better than last year,” Dooley says instead. “If I see every single player bring 100% of his skills, I think we have a great team: we play football, we can fight, we can run, the stamina is good. We don’t have to make us smaller, or bigger, than we are.” “For us to beat Uzbekistan I don’t think it will be a miracle, I believe we have the strengths in our team to get a good result,” Phil says.

The team knows this isn’t going to be an easy match, and perhaps Dooley said it best: “We expect them to play a great game, to show what football is all about. But we try to bite a little bit. We are the Azkals, so we try to come a little bit and bite left and right.”

The team knows this isn’t going to be an easy match. Do you? Perhaps the only really sad and worried look we saw during the preparations was when Rob asked about ticket sales. The Philippine Sports Stadium has a seating capacity of between 20-25,000. In the World Cup Qualifier match versus Bahrain, a little more than 6,000 people trooped to Bocaue. Will you still be cheering for the team when they’re down? We hope you do.

Because the team knows this isn’t going to be an easy match. And they’re going to leave it all out there on the pitch, for flag, for country, for their mom, for their dad, for you, and for me.

It’s us out there tonight and it won’t be easy. And we hope you’re ready too.

Phil Younghusband: We Can Create Something Out of Nothing

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The itch to score will always be there for Phil Younghusband, and ahead of their crucial 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match against Uzbekistan tonight at the Philippine Sports Stadium, this still holds true.

The Azkals skipper, who is set to get his 74th international cap tonight, admitted that the Azkals journey has been a roller-coaster ride. Younghusband has been with the national team since 2005 and is the Philippines’ most capped player.

“It’s been amazing because we’ve seen football from one extreme to another and a lot of ups and downs,” said Younghusband. “From the time in Hanoi (in 2010), before in Bacolod in the SEA Games (in 2005), to even the games where there were no people at all, it’s amazing.”

Although known for his goalscoring ability, Younghusband was pushed down to central midfield in the Qualifiers and has thrived in that position. Even though the Azkals skipper has yet to score this year, team success — particularly a berth in the AFC Asian Cup at the least — is the main priority.

“If I don’t score and we reach the Asian Cup, I’ll be over the moon,” said the Loyola Meralco Sparks player. “I want us to advance to the Asian Cup and get as far as possible in the World Cup Qualifiers.”

The burden of scoring may be off his shoulders, but Younghusband is wary of Uzbekistan especially as he was name-dropped by coach Samvel Babayan as the player to be stopped. Nevertheless, the midfielder trusts his teammates to “create something out of nothing” against the Central Asians with Misagh Bahadoran, Javier Patiño, and Iain Ramsay all finding the back of the net for the Azkals in the Qualifiers.

“It’s flattering that to know that other teams are watching me, but it does mean that other players a free to create something,” continued Younghusband. “It gives me confidence when you play a simple ball to someone and they can can produce a moment of brilliance.”

The match against Uzbekistan will begin at 8:00 PM and will be live at ABS-CBN Sports and Action. — CAL

Thomas Dooley and Phil Younghusband: Win Against Maldives A Boost to Our Confidence

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Coach Thomas Dooley and skipper Phil Younghusband thought of the 2-0 win over Maldives last Thursday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium as a confidence booster right before their World Cup Qualifiers match against Uzbekistan.

The Azkals twice found the back of the net against the Maldivian side in the second half. Mohammed Samdhooh’s own goal and Jerry Lucena’s header were enough to defeat the South Asians.

More importantly, the Azkals coach was relieved that no one picked up a major injury ahead of the Uzbekistan match. However, two of the players picked up a knock during the match. Juani Guirado was set to start but was injured during the warm up while Patrick Reichelt injured his hamstring during the game.

“We had (an injury) from Juani (Guirado), but it’s not that serious. He should be fine within the next couple of days,” said Dooley in the post-match press conference. “Patrick (Reichelt) also had a hamstring problem but he should be fine after recovery.”

Dooley also said that the match served as a barometer to determine how far have they improved despite some of the players — notably Stephan Palla and Javier Patiño — only arriving a day before the friendly.

“It’s not that kind of a game that you put everything in,” Dooley said. “We wanted to give everyone the chance to play and the most important thing is we got a victory and that no one was injured to build our confidence.”

Skipper Phil Younghusband echoed his coach’s thoughts on the win over Maldives. The midfielder only played 45 minutes against Maldives and was replaced by Dennis Villanueva in the second half.

“It’s important that players get playing time and get used with the conditions here in the Philippines,” said the skipper. “It’s enough that we are not too tired for the Uzbekistan match.”

With the Uzbekistan match just days ahead, Dooley already hinted that his starting eleven for the match is already set but that he will make changes depending on the next training sessions.

“It will be totally a different game against Uzbekistan compared to Maldives,” said Dooley. “I know who will start for the Uzbekistan game, but you’ll never know what can happen.”

The match against Uzbekistan will be on Tuesday, September 8, 2015, at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan. Kick off is at 8 PM, tickets are already available at TICKETWORLD. — CAL

Philippines Face Maldives in Friendly

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The Azkals’ preparation for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match against Uzbekistan continues tonight with a FIFA International Friendly match against Maldives at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

The Azkals began their preparations for the World Cup Qualifiers last Sunday right after the UFL Cup Final with only a handful of players.  Despite the short time frame for the training sessions, and the late arrivals of the foreign-based Azkals, coach Thomas Dooley reiterated the importance of the friendly.

“(The friendly against Maldives is) a very important game as we are trying to prepare against Uzbekistan,” said Dooley. “We want to treat every game seriously.”

The last meeting between the two sides was a titanic 3-2 extra time win for the Philippines in the AFC Challenge Cup Semifinals. Phil Younghusband, Jerry Lucena, and Chris Greatwich all scored for the Azkals against the then hosts at a slightly hostile venue.

Even though their last meeting was a tight affair, the Azkals coach pointed out that they may be up against a different Maldives side. Majority of the Maldivian squad are from their Under-23 side and star player Ali Ashfaq will not be available for the friendly. The Maldives are also using this match as their preparation for the World Cup Qualifier match against China next week.

“Only four players from the Challenge Cup are in their squad,” added Dooley. “I expect them to come after us and pressure us. It will be a great exercise for us.”

Azkals skipper Younghusband said that they must continue their winning habit.

“It’s important to go to the World Cup Qualifier match against Uzbekistan with a good result,” said Younghusband. “We know we can get some good results like we did against Bahrain and Yemen.”

The Azkals will play minus Luke Woodland, who is scheduled to arrive this weekend. The friendly kicks off at 8 PM at Rizal Memorial Stadium and will be shown live on ABS-CBN Sports and Action. — CAL


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