Possible Azkals line-up in the AFC Asian Cup

As the Philippine Azkals finalise their AFC Asian Cup preparations with a friendly match against Southeast Asian champions Vietnam on New Year’s Eve, let’s look how Sven-Goran Eriksson will possibly setup the team in the opening campaign.

The probable lineup: 4-4-2 [on paper]

The 11-man squad that could step onto the pitch above will be comprised of possibly the most experienced and promising bunch that shone in the previous AFF Suzuki Cup campaign.

One of the only two exceptions that could get the nod to start is Luke Woodland who, unfortunately, had his recent AFF participation cut short within the early minutes of the opening fixture, due to a minor leg injury that required a few weeks of recovery that deemed him unavailable for the rest of the campaign.

Why the Buriram United defender would most likely make the Azkals Starting XI though is his youth [at 23-years-old] that would be essential as a right-back in order to negate the possible threats from pacy opposing wingers.

The other player absent in the previously concluded regional tournament was Javier Patino who suffered a calf injury during the buildup camp to the Suzuki Cup.

Patino’s presence would add another dimension to the Azkals frontline due to his attributes that are not just focused on goalscoring, but his ability to draw defences and open up opportunities, through his close-quarter passing and vision, to his strike partners up front.

The possible ‘actual’ formation

If the lineup on paper will be fielded in the actual AFC Asian Cup, the most possible formation of the players once on the pitch could resemble more of a 4-1-3-2.

Javier Patino and Phil Younghusband will be up front with the former as the main focus of the attack.

Patrick Reichelt will shadow the the two forwards as an auxiliary striker operating from the right wing while Manny Ott will pull the strings as the fulcrum of the offence being the main playmaker.

Stephan Schrock, meanwhile, will be the spark from the left side of the pitch with a license to roam within his domain as an initiator as well beside Manny Ott while young John-Patrick Strauss at 22-years-old will be the defensive anchor at the middle of the park.

On defence, Alvaro Silva and Carli De Murga will partner each other as centre-backs.

Luke Woodland will take the right-back position while Daisuke Sato will be on the left with the two providing support in marauding their respective flanks in attacking situations.

Michael Falkesgaard of Bangkok United will be the starting goalkeeper.

Formation Variation: 4-3-3

With the same lineup, depending on the situation, the lineup could transform into a formation that resembles a 4-3-3 with Strauss retaining a regressed defensive midfielder role while Reichelt taking a more advanced position as a forward.

Substitutes

Possible roles that the substitutes can take are below:

From the starters, Woodland and De Murga could have their roles interchanged depending on who will be subbed out.

Iain Ramsay will most likely be a left wing specialist whether as a starter [which is highly possible too] or as a super-sub who will provide the needed service from the left flank and into the box for the forwards to work with.

Adam Tull has the versatility to take defensive and midfield roles while Jovin Bedic, Curt Dizon, and Mike Ott could substitute for different attacking roles.

Meanwhile, James Younghusband could either be deployed as a midfielder or a forward given his size that can open up defences.

AC Horsens’ Kevin Ray Hansen and Kaya FC’s Nathanael Ace Villanueva will provide the option as backup goalkeepers.

Conclusion

In closing, this discussion is all just speculative and for fun in anticipation of the actual Azkals campaign.

But one thing that can be observed from this selection by head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson and the rest of the coaching team is that the squad is a promising one that is capable of pulling off surprises, taking into consideration the availability and fitness of the players.

Here’s to hoping that the Azkals could come up with a commendable performance, and run of results in the biggest tournament of their lives.

Photo credit: The Azkals Instagram page

Etheridge-Azkals-AFC-Asian-Cup-2019-Cardiff-City-FC-Premier-League

On Neil Etheridge’s massive Premier League performance for Cardiff City against Leicester

Last night, Philippine time, Cardiff City secured their first win away from home as they pulled off a 1-0 result against Leicester.

The winner came in the form of a spectacular late strike by Victor Camarasa in the 92nd minute.

It may be the winning goal that might have gotten most of the attention due to it’s ‘magical’ nature, but from the defensive end, another talking point of the match has been Philippine Azkals keeper, Neil Etheridge who produced another penalty save in the 75th minute to deny the hosts a possible winner.

With another stellar shift for the Philippines’ colossus between the posts, let’s do a brief crunch on Neil’s current performance a match after the halfway of the season.

The obvious: Three penalty saves after 20 matches

After 20 matches, Neil Etheridge produced 3 saves out of five penalties that he has encountered.

Such hat-trick of saves from the spot currently make him top that particular statistic in the Premier League and is the most obvious attribute that makes him create waves in footballing circles around the world.

But actually, Neil’s other current statistics from a goalkeeping standpoint speak more volumes than just that.

Let’s delve a bit more into the numbers.

Neil Etheridge has the most saves in the Premier League

According to the current Premier League statistics, Etheridge now has the most number of the saves pulled off with 78.

What makes this even more interesting is that he has been one of the busiest of sentries in the league. Those saves he has made were out of the 116 shots he has encountered in the course of the currently on-going season. Out of those, he conceded 38 goals making him second as well in that department.

But despite the number of attempts that were able to beat Neil, in comparison to the ones he was able to deal with, that puts him in a success rate of 67.2%, which is still a pretty decent number as compared to the threats he has had to deal with.

The not so obvious: Neil Etheridge tops The Bluebirds in passing

What’s more interesting here is the Filipino stopper is in the thick of things for Cardiff not just in manning the posts, but also in being involved with ball-movement.

With Cardiff’s penchant for long-balls in their offensive buildup, most of such plays start with Neil. Add to that the number of saves that he pulled off and the ensuing goal-kick, plus the fact that Cardiff usually end up with the lower percentage of possession in most of their matches, it’s no wonder Neil tops this figure.

It’s fair to say that Etheridge is a crucial part of the squad especially now that Cardiff still have a long way to go with regards to their battle towards evading relegation (they are only four points above the drop-zone).

From an Azkals and Asian Cup perspective, what do these mean?

Obviously, these statistics point out that The Philippine Azkals are going to miss a top-quality player in their ranks as they participate in the biggest tournament they’ve qualified to in their history.

But in the end, it seems that not suiting up for the national team is the best option to take as Neil finally focuses on his club duties with the stellar performance against Leicester probably a proof already that foregoing his participation in the Asian Cup is the best decision to take.

For sure, Neil will still be available to suit up for the Philippines, and that is for a much higher purpose: The 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

From a club career perspective, does this open up opportunities for Neil?

Absolutely. But, whatever the future brings for the currently in-form stopper, it is most probably that any plans for a move away from Cardiff will not be initiated by Neil himself given that the club gave him the career-breakthrough for him to really showcase his goalkeeping ability and fulfil his potential at the highest level.

Photo credit: Neil Etheridge Twitter account

Azkals-23 and their possible preferred boots for the AFC Asian Cup 2019

The Azkals 23-man squad list for the AFC Asian Cup 2019 has just been recently released by the Philippine Football Federation with some notable absences and surprise, yet welcome, inclusions.

With several discussions already hovering around regarding the selection itself, we focus on the 23 men on the list, but this will not just be about any usual topic – we focus on their preferred brand of boots and the most probable models (provided there won’t be changes in their sponsorship or switches in their preferences as of this writing) that they will consider as their main boots of choice during the course of the continental tournament.

Note: This is not an endorsement of any sorts, but just a fun feature as service to the fans and football enthusiasts who are into cleats and equipment.

Michael Falkesgaard – Role: Goalkeeper; Club: Bangkok United [Thailand]

phl-vnt-aff-suzuki-cup-2018-sf--azkals-practice-1.jpg

The main keeper of Thai League 1’s Bangkok United will most definitely be the first choice of Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson to man between the posts for the Filipinos’ biggest campaign yet in their history as a national team.

A very capable keeper in place of Neil Etheridge’s absence due to club commitments,  the Azkals will need Michael Falkesgaard’s safe hands to keep the rivals’ attempts at bay.

Michael’s recent equipment – Boots: Adidas; Model: X 18.1; Gloves: Select

Kevin Ray Mendoza Hansen – Role: Goalkeeper; Club: AC Horsens [Denmark]

Mendoza Hansen boots and gloves.jpg

Kevin Ray Hansen will be the newest player to receive a call-up for the Azkals for major competition. The shot-stopper currently plays in the Danish Superliga for AC Horsens where he was able to currently amass five appearances in the current season.

The 24-year-old may have a strong resume being a regular in a European topflight to earn him a call-up, but he has a lot to prove once he’s given the opportunity to step onto the pitch. Here’s hoping that he pulls out a stellar debut.

Kevin Ray’s recent equipment – Boots: Nike; Model: Vapor 360 Elite ; Gloves: Uhlsport

Nathanael Ace Villanueva – Role: Goalkeeper; Club: Kaya FC Iloilo

Ace Villanueva boots

A stellar performance as a starting sentry during Kaya FC’s triumphant domestic league cup campaign, Ace Villanueva finally earned his call-up to the Azkals ahead of the Asian Cup 2019 tournament.

His role will most probably be as one of the goalkeeping options off the bench, but the fact that he has been considered to be in the squad is a testament to his club achievements and ever increasing reputation as a reliable stopper.

Ace’s possible equipment – Boots: Adidas Predator 18.1; Gloves: Adidas Predator Pro

Carli De Murga – Role: Defender; Club: Ceres-Negros FC

De Murga blog boots

A versatile defender whether as a centre-back or right-back, De Murga has been one a regular starter whether for club or country.

At club level he has helped Ceres Negros win their back-to-back championship in the recently concluded domestic league while contributing to the Busmen’s run to the zonal final in the 2018 AFC Cup.

He will most probably be one of the key players at the back for the Azkals in the Asian Cup.

Carli’s boots: Nike Tiempo Legend VII Elite

Paul Mulders – Role: Defender; Club: Ceres-Negros FC

Mulders blog boots

At 37-years-old, Paul Mulders is the kuya of this squad. But his experience and quality will definitely be a big contribution to the team if there comes a situation that Coach Sven will call him into the lineup either as a starter or a substitute.

Originally an attacking midfielder during his playing years in the Netherlands, Paul Mulders possesses the versatility to take on other positions and for the AFC Asian Cup, he is assigned a defensive role.

Despite his advanced age, in relation to footballers’ career years, Mulders still seems to be in great shape and he could surely provide that brilliance in bursts during the course of a match.

Paul Mulders’ recent boots on-pitch: Nike Mercurial Vapor IX, Nike Mercurial Vapor XI

Stephan Palla – Role: Defender; Club: Buriram United [Thailand]

Palla-Azkals.jpg

Stephan Palla, currently of Buriram United, adds to the defensive quality of the Azkals given his experience in the Austrian footballing system.

Playing mainly as a left-back, he is set to compete for position with Daisuke Sato. But Palla could also complement with him given that the Sepsi OSK stalwart can play further up front as a left midfielder.

Whatever the case, Stephan Palla will definitely have his plate full facing up against Asia’s best if he gets head coach Eriksson’s nod to step onto the pitch.

Stephan Palla’s recent preferred boots: Nike Mercurial Vapor XII Elite

Alvaro Silva – Role: Defender ; Club: Kedah FC [Malaysia]

Silva blog boots.jpg

One of the more experienced players in the Azkals’ squad in terms of club experience, 34-year-old centre-back Alvaro Silva’s debut in the AFF Suzuki Cup against Thailand have shown his wealth of experience providing the solidity and calmness at the backline that helped the Philippines survive the group stage.

This time, he will once again play a big role in the defensive end as the Azkals hope to come out with a commendable performance in the continental stage.

Alvaro’s choice of boots: Nike; Model: Hypervenom

Daisuke Sato – Role: Defender; Club – Sepsi OSK Sfantu Gheorghe [Romania]

Sato boots 2

One of the two outfield players of the Azkals who are based in Europe, Daisuke Sato’s tenacity has been one of his strengths.

A natural left-back who will not hesitate to take on a new challenge to take on a new role if required by his coach (as evidenced by his switch as a left midfielder against Thailand in the AFF Suzuki Cup group stage match), Sato will be one of the players to watch as one of the conduits from defence to attack.

Daisuke Sato’s equipment of choice: Adidas; Models: X18.1 Spectral Mode, X17 + Purespeed

Adam Tull – Role: Defender; Club: [formerly] Davao Aguilas FC

Adam Tull boots

One of Davao Aguilas’ stalwarts in defence during the recently concluded domestic league that saw the club come up with a much improved campaign in what turned out to be their final season as a professional club, Adam Tull will once again be in the thick of things in defence for the Azkals if given the nod to start or step onto the pitch.

Adam Tull’s cleats: Adidas, Model: X18.1

Luke Woodland – Role: Defender; Club – Buriram United [Thailand]

Woodland boots.jpg

The versatile defender who can play multiple positions (centre-back, defensive midfielder) despite being primarily a right-back suffered an injury in the early part of the match against Singapore that prematurely ended his participation in the AFF Suzuki Cup.

But he can put an end to that disappointing stint as he gets another shot this time in the bigger AFC Asian Cup, where he can really show and shine for the Azkals in the continental showdown. The 23-year-old will definitely one to look out for as the Philippines aim to get a good run of results in their tournament debut.

Wearing Nike in recent past, it seems Luke Woodland is now rocking the three stripes on the pitch as shown in a preseason fixture with Buriram United.

Luke Woodland’s boots: Adidas Model: X18.1

Kevin Ingreso – Role: Midfielder; Club: Ceres-Negros FC

Ingreso boots 2

Kevin Ingreso technically was the man who booked the Azkals to the Asian Cup after redeeming himself from a defensive error and scoring the equaliser against Tajikistan in the final qualifying match before Phil Younghusband erased the doubts by scoring the winner via penalty.

Whether as a starter or from the bench, Kevin will be tasked to be one of the creators from the middle of the park with his vision, playmaking and ability to score in lean situations.

Kevin Ingreso’s boots: Nike, Models: Mercurial Vapor XI, Mercurial Vapor IX

Manuel “Manny” Ott – Role: Midfielder; Club: Ceres-Negros FC

Manny Ott cleats

A playmaker for Ceres-Negros FC, Manny Ott is one of the crucial pieces of the Azkals in this AFC Asian Cup campaign.

His fitness due to a minor foot injury might have hampered him in the semifinal of the recently concluded Suzuki Cup, but with him hopefully fully fit for the Asian Cup, his ability to create scoring chances – even score himself – will be essential to the Azkals’ chances to come up with a surprising run.

Manny Ott’s boots: Luxury Nike Mercurial Superfly V

Mike Ott – Role: Midfielder, Club: Ceres-Negros FC

Mike Ott boots

Whether as a winger or support striker, Mike Ott’s ability to score is undeniable and he definitely is an asset for the Azkals this campaign in the United Arab Emirates.

A purposeful attacker who can deceive defences, he can be an ever-present threat in favour of the Philippines.

Mike Ott’s possible boots: Nike Phantom Vision Elite, Adidas adizero F50

Stephan Schrock – Role: Midfielder, Club: Ceres-Negros FC

Schrock blog boots

Definitely one of the undisputed stars of this Philippine Azkals team, Stephan Schrock has the experience and the ability to change the course of the match through his influence and moment of inspiration from either side of the midfield.

He can carve out defences by himself with his dribbling ability but from a team standpoint, his ability to pick out his teammates up front with precise and well-weighted passes always are things that his team’s strikers will be thankful to work with. Also it should be mentioned his penchant to pull-off something spectacular when the the Azkals are struggling to find a groove in the offensive end.

Along with Stephan Schrock’s undeniable qualities, it is to note that he has possibly the most array of footballing boots in this bunch of players. He’s Nike through and through but his cleats are quite a number.

Stephan Schrock’s array of armaments by Nike: Mercurial Vapor XII Elite, Tiempo Legend III, Vapor XI Puro Fenomeno, Phantom Vision Elite [and possibly more!]

John-Patrick Strauss – Role: Midfielder, Club: Erzgebirge Aue [Germany]

Strauss blog img boots

Defensive midfielder, John-Patrick Strauss, who currently plays in the 2. Bundesliga with Erzgebirge Aue has been a revelation for the Azkals during the recently concluded 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup.

Only 22-years-old, he still has a lot of mileage left in him and it showed as he was able to show pace, stamina and impetus from deep in the middle of the pitch towards initiating attacking plays. However, just as when the Suzuki Cup got serious, his stint came to an end as he was recalled for club duty that made him miss out the semifinal clash against Vietnam.

This time, though, he will be available for the Azkals for the Asian Cup and it’s highly probable that he will feature as a starter for Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.

John-Patrick Strauss’ go-to cleats: Nike Mercurial Superfly 360 Elite

Miguel Javier Tanton – Role: Midfielder, Club: Ceres-Negros FC

36672349_2092267267450785_2548424918165356544_n

Miguel Tanton finally gets a deserved call-up for an entire tournament after earning only one appearance for the Azkals last 2016 in a World Cup qualifier match against North Korea.

Despite that commendable performance, where he was able to provide an audacious back-heel assist for the equaliser, it’s hard to believe that he wasn’t able to feature more for the national team after that.

A tenacious player whose grafting and no-nonsense demeanour mostly overcasts the flair, playmaking and creativity that he possesses as a midfielder, it is high time that Miguel Tanton gets his call-up in the biggest tournament that the Azkals are going to participate in.

Miguel Tanton’s cleats: Nike Mercurial Vapor

James Younghusband – Role: Midfielder, Club: Davao Aguilas FC

James Younghusband blog boots.jpg

The only other centurion [player who amassed at least 100 appearances] for the Azkals, James Younghusband is one of the most experienced players in the squad.

A versatile midfielder who can be tenacious in a testy affair, at the same time, an effective contributor at both ends of the pitch James’ ability to influence a match just by his presence and the way he draws the opposing defence to himself opens up attacking chances for his teammates.

His greatest strength in the offensive end is his ability to score as a target man during set-pieces.

James’ most recent on-pitch cleats: Adidas; Models: X18.1 and Ace 16.1

Jovin Bedic – Role: Forward, Club: Kaya FC Iloilo

PHL-THA AFF SUZUKI CUP 2018

Jovin Bedic definitely is at the highest point at the moment of his career. One of the only two homegrown talents in the current Azkals lineup [along with Ace Villanueva who also is from Kaya], his goalscoring ability has been proven in the international stage when he scored the equaliser against Thailand in the AFF Suzuki Cup.

But even before that, he also scored the only goal for Kaya during the final of the domestic league cup that booked his club a place in the 2019 AFC Cup.

Now, in the AFC Asian Cup, Jovin Bedic could once again have the opportunity to keep this run of scoring big goals at the right moment as he represents his hometown province of Iloilo at the continental stage in football.

Jovin Bedic’s most recent choice of on-pitch cleats: Nike Mercurial Vapor XII Elite ‘Meu Jogo’, Nike Mercurial Vapor XII 360 Elite

Curt Dizon – Role: Forward, Club: Ceres-Negros FC

Curt Dizon boots

Curt Dizon is one of the most promising strikers for the Azkals. His goalscoring exploits have already been shown during his tenure with Global Cebu FC and, more recently, with Ceres Negros.

Although he might come off as a substitute just as his role in the recent Suzuki Cup campaign, what he can offer to the Azkals’ frontline can still come in handy.

Good with the ball at his feet, and with the ability to pounce on the opportunity to score goals, Curt Dizon is definitely a plus to have up front.

Curt Dizon’s boots: Nike Hypervenom Phantom 3

Javier Patino – Role: Forward; Club: Buriram United [Thailand]

Patino blog boots

Javier Patino, barring injuries, arguably is the best offensive weapon that the Philippine Azkals have.

It’s not just through his goalscoring that makes him a danger man but also his ability to execute quick decisions and pick his teammates up front to lay off the ball for a better scoring opportunity is what makes him a truly effective forward.

As a striker, he possesses a certain cunning and cool finishing that makes him a highly rated competitor.

Javier Patino’s most recent cleats on the pitch: Adidas Copa 18.1

Iain Ramsay – Role: Forward, Club: Sukhothai FC [Thailand]

Ramsay boots

One of the Azkals’ best wingers, Ramsay’s pace and ability to pick-out strikers through his crosses makes him one of the main providers of chances.

Before his move to Sukhothai, he played for Felda United where he helped the club gain promotion to Malaysia’s top-flight by winning the Malaysian Premier League.

Expect that steady supply of threatening balls from him at the left flank, and if chances are lean, Iain can make himself available to create a chance for himself by taking the opportunity and unleashing a shot at goal.

Iain’s recent cleats: Nike Mercurial Vapor XII 360 Elite

Patrick Reichelt – Role: Forward, Club: Ceres-Negros FC

PHILIPPINES-VIETNAM  AFF SUZUKI CUP 2018 Semifinals

Patrick Reichelt is the most in-form striker at the moment, his two goals in the AFF Suzuki Cup are the evidences. In a campaign where chances were few, only Reichelt was able to score two goals for the Philippines.

Here’s hoping that the Ceres-Negros forward could bring and keep up the same level of scoring form in the AFC Asian Cup.

A mercurial forward who operates from the right flank, Patrick Reichelt’s ability to bring the ball into the opposition’s box and either unleash a shot or provide a killer pass for one of his strike partners will be his main arsenals in this continental campaign.

Patrick Reichelt’s weapon of choice: Nike Mercurial Vapor XII Elite

Phil Younghusband – Role: Forward, Club: Davao Aguilas FC

Phil blog boots.jpg

The Philippines’ other centurion, and the one with the most number of competitive appearances with 105 and the most number of goals ever for his country with 52, Phil is stepping into the AFC Asian Cup as the Philippine Azkals’ living legend.

Having a remarkable career for the national team, the 31-year-old striker will definitely have all the motivation to further his achievements by probably reaching another milestone while helping his team get to greater heights.

So what’s does Phil Younghusband have on his feet in the Asian Cup? Well he’s had quite a significant time when it comes to his partnership with Adidas [even past models – whether original release or reissues], so he’ll be wearing them and, hopefully, score goals with the three stripes.

Phil’s most recent cleats: Adidas X 18.1 Energy Mode, Adidas Predator Lethal Zones 2 [2013 model]

That’s it! Those are the most recent cleats of the Azkals who will go to the United Arab Emirates to compete in the Asian Cup 2019.

Do you fancy some of their cleats?

Photo credits: AFF Suzuki Cup, The Azkals, Buriram United Facebook Page, Kaya FC Iloilo Facebook page, Adam Tull Instagram page, Kevin Ray Mendoza Instagram page

A glaring omission in a promising bunch as Coach Eriksson and PFF release The Azkals 23-man AFC Asian Cup 2019 squad

The Philippine Azkals confirm their final list of players who will make up the squad for the upcoming AFC Asian Cup 2019 tournament.

Just this evening [December 27, 2018], the Philippine Football Federation released the final list of players who are called up for Asia’s continental football showdown.

Upon initial glance, it wouldn’t be hard to notice that Neil Etheridge is not part of the team.

But, with that noticeable absence, there are also some surprise inclusions that can be considered as overdue due to the glowing reputations they have built throughout their playing careers.

Let’s briefly look into the squad:

1. Neil Etheridge’s absence a blow, but probably the better option

It is to note that initially, Cardiff City FC’s main keeper and the player with the highest profile in the Azkals, being their sole representative in the prestigious English Premier League, would only to suit up for the national team in the opening fixture against South Korea on January 7, 2019.

But, in the end (and due to several possible reasons that can only be speculated), it might have been considered the best and most rational approach for both parties that Neil Etheridge should forego the tournament and concentrate on his club duties.

The situation in Cardiff City FC should also be taken into consideration in the bigger picture as the club is currently in the thick of things when it comes to a relegation battle, and Neil Etheridge is definitely a crucial piece in the club’s plans to evade the possible drop.

Yes, it might be a major letdown that the biggest name in the Philippines’ list of footballing talents is about to miss out on the biggest occasion that the national team is about to participate in. But the proposition and dilemma surely are things that Neil is most probably also unhappy to face given the magnitude of the tournament, especially for the country, as shown in his emotional reaction when he was able to help The Azkals seal qualification in the Asian Cup last March 27, 2018.

Filipino football fans also were mixed in their reactions with the decision of the team, showing that the situation really was a tough call no matter how one looks at it.

2. Surprise, yet promising, inclusions

This squad have a couple of players who can be considered as surprising additions given the timing of their inclusions and the magnitude of the tournament at hand, but very promising ones given their stellar track records in their respective careers in Philippine football – midfielder Miguel Tanton and goalkeeper Nathanael Ace Villanueva.

Miguel Tanton has been a long-time servant for Kaya FC even during the United Football League (UFL) years, before his recently concluded transfer to Ceres Negros for the coming season.

Considered as a creative, yet battling midfielder, Miguel’s ability to dictate the middle of the park with a good balance of brilliance and tenacity can be a plus to any team that he is bound to play for.

His only call-up with the Azkals last March 29, 2016 in a FIFA World Cup qualifier match was etched in memory when he provided the back-heel assist for Manny Ott’s 84th minute equaliser against North Korea that ended in a monumental 3-2 win.

Such have shown his quality as a midfielder and what he can offer to the team if head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson gives him the opportunity to step onto the pitch.

Meanwhile, Ace Villanueva, who plays as Kaya FC Iloilo’s main goalkeeper the past season, has been one of the best homegrown players in this country. A product of University of the Philippines, Ace worked his way up the ranks and has had stints with several local clubs such as Pachanga Diliman, and Loyola FC (which eventually became FC Meralco Manila) where he was able to stamp himself as a quality stopper.

And now along with forward, Jovin Bedic, Ace serves as Kaya’s second representative for the Azkals in the AFC Asian Cup 2019 campaign as a one of the goalkeeping options.

3. Who is Kevin Ray Hansen?

Kevin Ray Mendoza Hansen, for the first time, will be part of the Azkals in this AFC Asian Cup 2019 campaign which is a big challenge given the magnitude of the tournament – the biggest in the national team’s participation in international football competitions.

24-year-old Kevin Ray Mendoza plays as a goalkeeper for Danish Superliga club AC Horsens. In the current Superliga season, where his club is currently eighth in the standings out of 14 teams, Kevin Ray featured in a total of five matches. Out of these fixtures, he faced a total of 32 shots with 14 conceded goals and 18 attempts saved for a success rate of 56.3%

His experience in the Danish top flight will come in handy as a possible goalkeeping option along with Ace Villanueva of Kaya FC Iloilo, behind the most probable first choice keeper, Michael Falkesgaard of Bangkok United.

Photo credit: Philippine Football Federation

Azkals in Europe: Neil Etheridge stood out for Cardiff City in draw with Crystal Palace

Neil Etheridge pulled off another fine performance with a clean sheet for Cardiff City FC in a goalless away draw against Crystal Palace last December 26 to keep themselves out of the relegation zone.

In the course of the match, the Philippines’ sentry produced two highlight saves out of a total of five, one on the 15th minute when he denied Luka Milivojevic’s attempt and another more crucial stop in the 81st, denying Wilfried Zaha to keep the stalemate and add a precious point in the standings after the Boxing Day clash.

The result puts Cardiff City at 15 points in the Premier League table after Matchweek 19 – three points and one place above the drop zone at 17th place.

As for Neil Etheridge’s contributions, his exploits between the posts for the particular fixture earned recognition, particularly in Fantasy Football circles.

 

Cardiff City’s next fixture will be against currently in-form Leicester City on December 29, 2018 at 11:00PM HKT.

Photo credit: Neil Etheridge Twitter account