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Azkals U22 get monumental 1-0 win against Malaysia

The Philippine Azkals U22, against the odds, produced a gritty 1-0 win in their third group stage match against Malaysia to keep their hopes of reaching the semifinals alive in the 30th Southeast Asian Games held in Rizal Stadium last November 29, 2019.

Right from the start, the Philippines tried to push forward as evidenced by a freekick awarded within the first minute of the match when Stephan Schröck was fouled.

The ensuing freekick led to a corner kick for the hosts, but the attempted buildup was broken down successfully by the Malaysian defense.

Moments followed with both teams trading possessions and threatening runs but neither were able to produce a gilt-edged chance.

In the 18th minute Azkals defender Mar Diano seemed to have suffered a knock but after undergoing initial treatment, was able to continue as the match saw sporadic action until Rontini’s 21st minute effort from range that was comfortably dealt with by Malaysia’s net-minder Muhammad Nadzli.

A freekick by Malaysia in the 23rd minute by Adam Nor Azlin flew well on-target but Philippines’ goalkeeper Anthony Pinthus was equal to it.

As the match went nearer the half-hour mark, team captain Schröck tried to intiate some half-chances but the opening goal was hard to come by with Harimau Malaya having some promising glimpses as well.

But come the 30th minute, just as the Philippines seem to have gotten the slight upper-hand, Malaysia’s Muhammad Abdul Razak was able to unleash an effort from an angle that flew just wide of the far post.

In the 38th minute, another promising spell went the Azkals’ way with Dylan de Bruycker’s shot from outside the box being blocked by a Malaysian defender for a corner kick but the ensuing play left the hosts empty handed.

Malaysia may have a good chance to score via a 40th minute counterattack but they weren’t able to take advantage as the undermanned defense of the Philippines was able to thwart the buildup.

The final minutes of the first half had both sets of fans at the edge of their seats as the match hung precariously in the balance with either of the two teams having the possibility poised to break the ice.

It could be something that the Azkals would rue in the play that followed in the first minute of injury time of the first half as a well-worked cross by Schröck was able to find towering forward Chima Uzoka but the headed attempt arched way over the bar.

A thrilling close to the first half unfolded with Malaysia handed a freekick in what served as the last kick of the first 45 minutes but the ball produced was far from promising as it flew out of bounds and both teams headed into the break with neither scoring a goal.

As the second half began, with Stephan Schröck unleashing an early shot that flew just wide.

In the 52nd minute, a corner kick saw a shooting chance when the ball bounced kindly in front of an Azkal outside the box but the attempt was blocked.

The hosts turned up the ante in the following minutes as they were able to get a few consecutive set-pieces with Malaysia forced to defend for the most part, but still the opening goal proved to be elusive.

As the hour mark arrived, the visitors came up with a threatening play as the ball glided into the danger zone but Pinthus was able to cushion the ball with the palm of his hands and under his control.

In the 66th minute, the Malaysians were able to get a shot on target as Muhammad Norhisham unleashing a low strike from distance but Pinthus once again was composed in dealing with the attempt.

But the breakthrough did arrive for the Azkals as a 73rd minute deceitful corner kick by Stephan Schröck, aided with the pressure applied by Amani Aguinaldo, found the back of the net.

The advantage seemed to have immediately turned Malaysia into life as two successive attempts within the 77th minute, though ending empty-handed, were worryingly enough for the Azkals backline.

Sure enough in the 80th minute the Malaysians pulled off probably one of their most promising shots but Muhammad Abdul Razak’s just flew marginally off target. But Malaysia still kept piling the pressure near the 90th minute mark by marauding the Azkals’ penalty box as the onus rested on their end to produce the crucial leveler.

But the equalizer proved to be elusive for the Harimau as the Philippines get a monumental win to keep its 2019 SEA Games campaign and hopes of surviving Group A alive and kicking.

The Philippine Azkals will next face Timor-Leste in their final group stage match on December 4 which will be hosted in Biñan Football Stadium. Kickoff is at 4:00PM. Malaysia meanwhile will clash against Cambodia at the same schedule which will be held in Rizal Stadium.

Photo credit: Smile Eight Photography

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Precious point: Pilipinas WNFT shows promise in milestone draw vs nemesis

The Philippine Women’s National Football Team (Pilipinas WNFT) opened their 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games campaign with a goalless draw against Myanmar last November 26, in Biñan Football Stadium. Despite the stalemate, there was actually more to that match than just the result.

Here are some of the reasons why that one-point earned by the Philippines in the group stage proved to be critical, and a crucial outcome that could set them in a good position to reach the semifinals and contend for a medal.

Myanmar were a thorn, until now

At least for the past decade, probably in the entire history of their encounters at the senior level, Pilipinas WNFT has never defeated or even drawn with the Asian Lionesses, Myanmar.

As a matter of fact, the Burmese squad has proven superior with all previous matches since the 2010’s ending convincingly in their favor against the Filipinas with a 2-0 outcome way back during the 2011 AFF Championship serving as the closest margin of victory ever.

Also, the lionesses have been one of the major spoilers for the Philippine women’s past quests for a medal finish with the just recent 2019 AFF Championship proving just that as Myanmar beat the Philippines 3-0 in the battle for bronze.

Now in 2019 right in front of the Filipino home crowd, the Philippines finally earned their first point against the team that gave them probably one of their toughest and forgetful matches – a result that could serve as a possible turning point in the future encounters between these two sides.

Consistent, solid defense saved the day for the Philippines

What may be ‘the great equalizer’ for the Filipinas in this latest fixture is the much improved defensive discipline and resolve shown against their much daunted Burmese rivals.

Despite the slightly tentative midfield and attack in the first half, in terms of keeping possession and creating chances, the hosts’ defense held firm to frustrate Myanmar’s offensive waves as the visitors came up empty handed despite some promising midfield play in the first 45 minutes.

Come the second half, all the more that the Philippine backline rose to the occasion, with the entire squad showing more fluidity the defense not only held fast in delivering its main role but also became the starting point of several offensive moves as Coach Let Dimzon’s wards began to successfully probe what seemed to be initially an impenetrable Burmese wall.

Goalkeeper Inna Palacios not only pulled off some fine saves, but she also demonstrated great anticipation with some crucial interventions by running out of her line to get first a number of through balls that could have been the breakthrough for the opposition.

The backline composed of Mea Bernal, Hali Long, Dai Dolino and subsitute Chelo Hodges, has always been effectively on the alert, eventually negating Myanmar’s highly rated front-line duo of Yee Yee Oo and Win Theingi Tun while Claire Lim may have provided the best individual performance with her audacious long range efforts, two of which either forced a crucial save from the opposing keeper or hit the crossbar, contributing on the offensive end on top of her staple enforcer role.

Such was the level of effectivity that has been delivered by the Philippines’ defense that Myanmar’s best chance came not from their strikers, but from their creative attacking midfielder Khan Malar Tun, proving how the supposed superior opposition was pushed to its limits in order to carve out opportunities but eventually ended up empty-handed.

Halftime adjustments almost delivered a win

Whatever the initial concerns that the Philippines had in the first 45 minutes, most of those have been addressed in the second half and this is where Head Coach Marnelli ‘Let’ Dimzon’s tactical nous came into play.

As the tenth minute of the second half expired, the hosts started to be more settled in their midfield play, anchored by captain Patrice Impelido, showing more composure and industry in working the ball from the middle of the park.

The flanks became more utilized as well, and to much greater effect as Camille Rodriguez, Alisha Del Campo and Sara Castañeda were given more room to create either by supplying the services needed towards Sarina Bolden, Quinley Quezada, and Shela Cadag (later on) at front or crafting opportunities themselves.

But the turning point in the match may have been the introduction of Eva Madarang near the hour mark, who provided the much needed fresh legs and versatility by operating as a free radical in the entire right flank mainly as a winger, support striker (in a more pronounced three-pronged attack) or midfielder, with a few unfamiliar cameos as wing-back – helping out on the defensive end as demanded by the situation.

Though opportunities did come, the arrival of that much awaited breakthrough wasn’t meant to be, despite the Philippines knocking at Myanmar’s door on several occasions as the match neared its expiry en-route to a monumental draw.

A working unit waiting to succeed

With what has been demonstrated, Pilipinas WNFT now is in a very good position to survive Group A of the 2019 SEA Games. But there’s still another barrier to hurdle with a tricky match against Malaysia set to be the decider for the Filipinas’ progression to the semis.

Nevertheless, if the opener against one of the region’s most dangerous sides Myamar could serve as a very minute yet reliable reference in this campaign, the Philippine Women’s National Football Team maybe primed to finally get its first medal in the regional biennial meet that has eluded them for 34 years since that bronze medal finish in 1985.

And if they reach the podium, with finishing first a possibility, then what a way to celebrate our women’s competitive homecoming after a decade of football odyssey.

Photo credit: Philippine Women’s National Football Team

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Pilipinas Women’s Football Team kicks off SEAG2019 campaign

Coming off what could be considered as one of its most extensive preparations for a tournament after not playing a competitive match at home in a decade, The Philippine Women’s National Football Team, now begins its Southeast Asian Games 2019 campaign against one of the region’s powerhouses Myanmar tonight, November 26, in Biñan Football Stadium.

The Philippine team has been drawn in Group A along with Myanmar and Malaysia, and with the current pool of competitors, the hosts – under the guidance of head coach Let Dimzon – have a high chance of getting to the semifinals/medal rounds.

Although there has been no official posting yet from the social media channels of the squad, based on some reliable posts, the Philippines are working on a 20-player roster that may be the final list that will compete in the biennial tournament.

[UPDATE: The Philippine Women’s Football Team just officially released their squad]

We reveal your 🇵🇭 team for the 30th #SEAGames2019 women's football event that will kickoff later today!#LabanFilipinas…

Posted by Philippine Women's National Football Team on Monday, November 25, 2019

Goalkeepers

  • Inna Palacios (Green Archers United)
  • Kimberly Pariña (Far Eastern University)

Defenders

  • Claire Lim (University of California – Santa Cruz)
  • Hali Long (Green Archers United)
  • Alesa Dolino (Outkast FC)
  • Patrice Impelido (Stallion-Hiraya FC)
  • Mea Bernal (Outkast FC)
  • Chelo Marie Hodges (Green Archers United)
  • Tara Shelton (De LaSalle University)
  • Cathrine Graversen (B.93 Pigefodbod [Denmark])

Midfielders

  • Camille Rodriguez (Stallion-Hiraya FC)
  • Sara Castañeda (De La Salle University)
  • Charisa Lemoran (University of Santo Tomas)
  • Hazel Lustan (University of Santo Tomas)
  • Eloiza Fagsao (University of the Philippines)

Forwards

  • Quinley Quezada (University of California – Riverside)
  • Alisha Del Campo (De La Salle University)
  • Shela Mae Cadag (University of Santo Tomas)
  • Sarina Bolden (Sandvikens IF [Sweden])
  • Eva Madarang (Doncaster Rovers Belles)

After the opener against Myanmar on November 26, the Philippine Women’s Team will next face Malaysia on November 29, also in Biñan Football Stadium.

Photo credit: Philippine Women’s National Football Team Facebook page

Azkals U22 in Copa Alcantara serves as preview for 2019 SEA Games

The Philippines U22 squad’s opener in the Copa Paulino Alcantara served as a glimpse of what is in store for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) campaign this late November.

Speaking to the media after getting a 1-0 win in their first assignment against Green Archers United and finding themselves as early leaders in Group A, Azkals team manager Dan Palami shared his thoughts on the considerable number of spectators for the cup match that was held last October 27 in Aboitiz Pitch.

“I’m glad the fans came over and I’m happy that they got their preview of what is to come (this SEA Games).”

However, Palami was quick to point out that the list of players comprising the squad for the cup is not yet a confirmation that it will be a hundred percent the same come the biennial meet.

“I mean it’s not the final lineup yet. We’ll trim (the list) down to 20. We still have two players coming from the senior team (which will fill the slots for) the over-age players,” shared the Azkals’ boss.

During their opener last weekend, it was to note that the team expects additional players (at least two more) overseas-based who coming with the hopes of playing a part in the cup.

“Some of the players who are part of this (Copa Alcantara) team are yet to arrive, like Marco Casambre (of Thai club Chainat Hornbill) and Christian Rontini (of Italy’s Sangiovannese 1927).”

With a big pool of talents being considered for the final cut in the SEA Games, Dan Palami is expecting an intense battle for spots from the players.

“I think everybody can see that (each player) wants to play, that is why they are working hard to be part of the team,” Palami added further.

Under-22 assistant coach Ernest Nierras also stated on a separate interview that other players are also still in consideration for the final SEA Games squad, confirming that changes can still occur and nothing is guaranteed when it comes to the spots.

One particular player who has been a constant participant in the junior squad, but is not in the U22 lineup this Copa Alcantara is Ceres-Negros’ Dylan De Bruycker.

“(De Bruycker) wasn’t released by Ceres for this competition. That’s the only reason.”

Coach Nierras further informed that aside from De Bruycker, more players – overseas-based – are still in the process of being considered for the SEA Games squad who were not able to be part of the Copa simply because of their commitments with their respective clubs.

“There are still five players (based overseas) who are not here (that are being eyed).

“We are gonna field the best team that we can put together (for the Southeast Asian Games).”

The Azkals U22 are about to face their sternest test yet in their 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara participation as they face undefeated league champions Ceres-Negros who are aiming to bounce back from their lacklustre draw in their cup opener against Mendiola FC. Match kicks off at 4PM in Binan Football Stadium.

Meanwhile Mendiola FC and Green Archers continue their cup campaign as they face off in Aboitiz pitch followed by Philippine Air Force and Stallion Laguna in an evening kickoff on the same venue.

Photo credit: The Azkals

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Young Azkals’ participation highlights upcoming 2019 Copa Alcantara

In-line with the preparation for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in Manila, the Philippines U22 squad, the Young Azkals, are set to test themselves against the best clubs in the country as they embark on the 2019 edition of the Copa Paulino Alcantara starting this late October.

As a guest team during the draw for the group stage of the Philippines’ domestic cup tournament last October 20 at the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) House of Football in Pasig, the U22 has been assigned under Group A along with 2019 Philippines Football League (PFL) champion Ceres-Negros FC, Mendiola FC 1991, and Green Archers United.

Meanwhile, Group B is comprised of three teams with defending Copa Paulino Alcantara champion Kaya FC Iloilo, Philippine Air Force, and Stallion Laguna FC.

Competition Format

As discussed by PFL Commissioner Coco Torre, the seven teams will compete within their respective groups during the group/elimination stage where all matches will be in knockout format. The semifinals and final will also be one off fixtures without applying the away goals rule.

The winning team, with the exception of the Philippine U22 squad, will represent the Philippines in the 2020 AFC Cup. If the Young Azkals manage to win, the cup runners-up will be the ones to be nominated to the AFC Cup.

But if PFL champions Ceres-Negros, happen to win the tournament, the second-placer of the league will be the one to be nominated for next year’s AFC Cup competition.

All nominations to the AFC Cup will still be subject to the AFC’s club licensing regulations.

Young Azkals aim high

The Philippine U22 are anticipating at the proposition of testing their mettle against the very best in domestic professional club football scene. Such an opportunity has been further emphasized by their grouping with undefeated PFL 2019 champions and perennial AFC Cup competitors Ceres-Negros.

Azkals Team Manager, Dan Palami, who is also managing the Young Azkals is using the competition in preparation for the 2019 Southeast Asian [SEA] Games which will be held in and around Metro Manila beginning late November, has expressed that the team will compete for honors, despite not being eligible for the AFC Cup if they win it all.

“I’d like to think that we have a good chance dito sa Copa. While even if we become champions, it does not give us a slot in the AFC Cup, but [winning the competition] is what we are aiming for.”

In addition to the serious steps being taken by the national team for the SEA Games, some of the overseas-based young players already have given their full commitment to the squad by taking a significant leave of absence from their respective clubs just to focus on training with the squad.

Players like Elias Edison Suerti Mordal took a leave from Norwegian club Brattvag, and Switzerland-based Anthony Pinthus of FC Kosova is training with the squad until the conclusion of the SEA Games.

The 20 U22 players who will compete in the Copa Alcantara are the ones already in the shortlist for the SEA Games football tournament and might be the ones who will make the final list for the regional biennial tournament.

The Copa Paulino Alcantara kicks off on October 26 until November 16.

Photo credit: The Azkals

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PH Women’s Football Team set for primetime in SEAG 2019

The Philippine Women’s National Football Team are set for evening kickoffs for the group stage of the 30th Southeast Asian Games which will be held in Binan Football Stadium.

In a post through the team’s official social media channels, Coach Let Dimzon and the rest of her squad begin their campaign on November 26, 2019 against regional powerhouse Myanmar followed by a clash with Malaysia three days later on November 29.

All matches are set to kick off at 8:00PM and will be hosted in Binan Football Stadium which has just recently been able to fully activate its lighting system, making it ready to host evening matches as evidenced during the Philippines Football League.

Aside from the initial fixtures of the national team, the semifinals and medal matches have also been determined where Rizal Memorial Football Stadium will come into the scene.

Photo credit: Philippine Women’s National Football Team

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Young Azkals, Malditas get favorable groups in SEAG 2019 football

The Philippines Under-22 men’s and women’s football squads avoid regional powerhouses in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) group stage after the draw concluded last October 15 in Sofitel Hotel Manila.

The Draw (Men’s U-22)

Before the draw, hosts Philippines along with defending champions, Thailand are seeded already making up Group A and B respectively. Malaysia and Indonesia are in Pot 1, while Myanmar and Vietnam are in Pot 2. Rounding up the rest of the participants are Singapore, Laos, Cambodia, Brunei and Timor-Leste in Pot 3.

After the the draw of the competing teams came to a conclusion, hosts Philippines saw themselves in Group A along with Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Timor Leste.

Group B ends up with a more stacked set of squads with Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Singapore and Brunei.

The Under-22 team sees itself in a more favorable group avoiding a tougher proposition of facing Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore and Thailand early in the competition.

The Draw (Women’s)

The women’s competition, which is made up of six competitors, sees two pots with Pot 1 containing Thailand and Myanmar, while Pot 2 with Malaysia and Indonesia. Hosts Philippines and Vietnam are the two seeded teams already in Group A and B respectively.

After the draw came to a conclusion, hosts Philippine women’s team see themselves grouped along with Myanmar and Malaysia while Group B sees itself with Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia.

The Philippine women’s team seems to find itself in a more manageable position to progress to the semifinals stage avoiding Vietnam and Thailand early in the competition.

The men’s football will kick-off on November 25 and will run until December 10. Meanwhile, the women’s tournament will be from November 26 and will conclude on December 8.

2019 SEA Games football tournament venues:

  • Rizal Memorial Stadium (Women’s and Men’s)
  • Binan Football Stadium (Women’s & Men’s)
  • Imus Grandstand (Men’s)
Officials from different nations who participated in the draw with competition manager, Coco Torre of the Philippines Football League

Photo credit: The Azkals