Stephan Schröck-Azkals-Ceres-Negros-AFF-ASEAN-Best11

Azkals captain Stephan Schröck earns ASEAN Best XI plaudit

Fresh from being confirmed as the best creator in the recently concluded AFC Cup 2019 with his tournament-leading six assists, Philippine Azkals captain and Ceres-Negros midfield engine Stephan Schröck earned further citation after being included in AFF’s ASEAN Best XI.

The awarding happened during the AFF 2019 Awards Night which was held in the evening of November 8 in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Aside from bagging the most number of assists in the continental tourney for Ceres-Negros, Schröck also helped his club win the Philippines Football League for the third straight time since the league’s inaugural season, with the latest 2019 title achieved without suffering a single defeat, as the busmen earned the Invincibles moniker that is traditionally reserved for teams that completed an undefeated league campaign.

With the Philippines Football League already secured, Stephan’s club Ceres-Negros FC are still on track in their bid to win the Copa Paulino Alcantara for a chance to achieve an unprecedented double in Philippine football’s professional era.

Completing the rest of the ASEAN Best XI with Stephan Schröck are Dang Van Lam (Vitenam/Muangthong Utd), Muhammad Syahmi Safari (Malaysia/Selangor FA), Que Ngoc Hai (Vietnam/The Cong FA), Muhammad Safuwan Baharuddin (Singapore/Pahang), Korrakot Wiriya-Udomsiri (Thailand/Buriram Utd), Mohamed Syamer Kutty Abba (Malaysia/Johor Darul Ta’zim), Sanrawat Dechmitr (Thailand/Bangkok Utd), Riko Simanjuntak (Indonesia/Persija Jakarta), Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (Malaysia/Pahang), and Player of the Year Nguyen Quang Hai (Vietnam/Hanoi FC).

The Filipino international’s recent achievement is just the latest of a milestone-laden year as he captained the Philippine Azkals’ first ever campaign in the Asian Cup early this 2019 where he became the first ever goalscorer for the Philippines.

Photo credit: Stephan Schröck Instagram

azkals-philippines-thomas-dooley-fifa-world-cup

Former Azkals Head Coach Thomas Dooley to write a book and set up academy in the Philippines

In a Facebook post, former Philippine Akals head coach and former US Soccer MNT captain Thomas Dooley is in the process of authoring his own book, while at the same, time building a football academy in the Philippines that aims to help the country qualify for the World Cup.

Without divulging much about the details about the book, Coach Dooley – who guided the Azkals towards their first ever Asian Cup qualification – informed that it will be more of either a memoir or an autobiography in nature.

Thomas Dooley, aside from being the national team’s former head coach and a former captain of the US Soccer Men’s National Team [who featured in the 1994 and 1998 FIFA World Cup tournaments], also played club football mainly as a defender in the German Bundesliga where he became a multi-titled player in the process by winning the 1990 DFB Pokal [Germany’s equivalent to the League Cup], the 1990-91 German Super Cup and the 1990-91 German Bundesliga title with 1. FC Kaiserslautern, while adding the UEFA Cup in 1996-97 with Schalke 04.

He also played in the USA’s Major League Soccer for clubs Columbus Crew and New Jersey Metro Stars [now known as New York Red Bulls] in the latter part of his already stellar career.

Aside from the book, the coach [in an interview with Radyo Pilipinas 2 show “Sports Eye” last January 23, 2019] also has a plan for 2026 which is to help the Philippines qualify for the World Cup by working at the youth level through putting together a football academy which will be free for the players.

“I don’t want an academy for the rich people. [I want it] for [finding] the [right] quality [of players],” Thomas Dooley shared.

“I think there is a huge market over here for football. That’s why I think if we do the right thing in the future, we can create a football culture in this country and if I can do that in my spare time or even full-time, then I would be happy,” added Thomas Dooley.

Thomas Dooley began his tenure as the head coach of the Philippines’ senior football team in February 2014 on a one-year contract. A run of encouraging results earned him two more extensions that ran until March 2018.

Although even after guiding the Philippine National Football Team to its first ever Asian Cup, Dooley’s contract was never renewed or extended.

In spite of his direct involvement with the Philippines coming to a close, the coach opted to stay in the country and be more involved in the youth level via the building of the aforementioned academy in which the venue is still being deliberated and yet to be finalised.

“I’ve been here [in the Philippines, for the past] five years [and] I haven’t left,” shared the coach to Radyo Pilipinas 2.

“I love it over here. I could go back to the US or maybe in Germany… [but] I always want to live here.”

afc-asian-cup-2019-azkals-philippines-kyrgyz-republic

OPINION: Takeaways from the Azkals’ maiden AFC Asian Cup campaign

The Philippine Azkals came up short in mounting a miracle amd extending their participation in their historic AFC Asian Cup 2019 participation after suffering a 3-1 defeat against Kyrguz Republic last January 16 in Dubai.

As the Azkals start to pack their bags ahead of their return home, here are some takeaways from their debut tournament:

The FIFA rankings prevailed in Group C

There are no surprises or upsets in the Azkals’ group as perennial World Cup participants South Korea claim a perfect haul of points with nine followed by continental sleeping giants China who notch up six points as Kyrgyz Republic round up the haul with three from a solitary win against the Philippines who end the campaign winless.

The Azkals came into the tournament as outsiders being a newly emerging football nation and the lowest-ranked country in Group C.

After an almost surprise debut match – coming close to shutting out highly rated South Korea towards a narrow 1-0 loss with a laudable defensive effort by Sven-Goran Eriksson’s wards, the Philippines dropped their following games to bow out of the first phase of the competition.

Reality check for the Philippines

The Azkals’ capability to qualify really raised the hopes of Filipino football fans heading into the tournament dreaming for at least one positive result.

However, as the Philippine team’s official tournament slogan “To Dream the Impossible” seems to ring true, it pretty much was a mountainous task as the squad signed off without getting a point and a “-6” goal difference with only Stephan Schrock’s consolation goal against Kyrgyz Republic [more on that later] the only shot from the team that found the back of the net.

Despite a promising opening match against South Korea that ended in just a 1-0 loss amidst predictions of a lopsided result in favor of the Taeguk Warriors, the following two matches ended in 3-0 [against China] and 3-1 [against Kyrgyz Republic] losses. 

Such campaign results raise one aspect to improve on: Creating and scoring chances. Defensively, the Philippines were already generally sound [save maybe in the first half of their last fixture against Kyrgyz Republic]. But the midfield and frontline still needs to get better in terms of their understanding with each other when it comes to attacking and finishing to score goals. 

Stephan Schrock pulled off another impossible goal

The Philippine Azkals’ star midfielder, Stephan Schrock, scored another magical goal right at the 80th minute off a free kick from way out.

The goal  proved to be just a consolation though with the opposing team already well in command with three goals in the bag already and with only roughly thirteen minutes left in the match. It also proved to be the only goal of the Philippines in their Asian Cup debut which is now etched in history – a great individual feat.

That special serving by Schrock was reminiscent of the one he scored in another losing effort against Uzbekistan last September of 2015 in a World Cup qualifier match.

Time and time again, the Ceres-Negros gem has proven that he is the man for the occasion, pulling off goals from out of nowhere.

But with these two amazing goals, I just hope in the near future that Schrock scores off another mind-boggling effort in different circumstances – with the squad winning rather than losing.

On Sven-Goran Eriksson

From the time he took the reigns as the Azkals’ head coach, Sven-Goran Eriksson amassed two wins, two draws and five losses [2W, 2D, 5L – friendlies not included]. It’s obviously not an ideal run of results but it is to note that he has only been on board as of late October 2018 on a six-month contract which is too short for a national team coach to really impose his system.

His contract is set to end late April 2019, and maybe that’s the only time that he is able to really start getting to instill his managerial and coaching “signature” to the squad but with him mentoring the Akals, it is no surprise that many overseas-based and local Filipino players are keen to be called up to the national team just to have a chance to play under the multi-titled coach.

I personally do hope he extends his handling of the team, but in the end, the decision is his to make.

The end of the “Azkals Golden Generation”?

Stephan Schrock, Phil and James Younghusband, Javier Patino, Carli De Murga, Patrick Reichelt, and Alvaro Silva – These are some of the players who are currently 30-years-old and above and could see their playing days for the Azkals get shorter every match day.

These players have indeed been on a league of their own as they contributed their part immensely to Philippines’ climb in terms of its reputation as a footballing nation and their services will be missed once they hang up their boots when it comes to international duty.

But despite the impending end of an era, a new batch of talents are waiting to take their place and the pool of potentials is slowly increasing as they jostle for position in terms of callups.

From already reputable young players such as Amani Aguinaldo, Marco Casambre, Paolo Bugas, Paolo Salenga, Curt Dizon, Luke Woodland, John-Patrick Staruss and Mike Ott [to name some] to potentials, both local and foreign-based, such as Javier Gayoso, Michael Kempter, Oliver Bias, JB Borlongan and Joshua Grommen [to name a very few], the conveyor belt is already set for the next generation of Azkals who will play along new leaders by then such as Manny Ott, Neil Etheridge, Michael Falkesgaard and Daisuke Sato.

But the main concern now is we hope we get to see more matches [friendly matches in particular] when it comes to our junior squads for AFF/AFC competitions such as U-23, U-19, U-16, and U-14 [not to mention the women’s team and their junior counterparts] because those are where talents get developed and honed at an international level in preparation for being able to compete in tournament qualifiers.

In conclusion

The AFC Asian Cup 2019 stint of the Azkals has been a massive achievement already for a nation of such a profile when it comes to the greater schemes in the world of football. Here’s to hoping Philippine football make the most of it and sustain such level of competitiveness from this point onwards.

Photo credit: AFC Asian Cup

philippines-azkals-afc-asian-cup-2019

Asian Cup 2019: Where to watch The Azkals’ definitive match vs Kyrgyz Republic in the Philippines

On January 16, 2019 the Philippine Azkals will face Kyrgyz Republic in their final group stage match to determine if they’ll survive to the knockout phase as one of the best third placers in their maiden Asian Cup appearance.

After Sven- Goran Eriksson’s men lost their first two assignments against powerhouses South Korea and China, the fixture against Kyrgyz Republic will serve as their last chance in a bid to extend their participation in Asia’s highest level of international football competition.

Such magnitude of a challenge ahead is something that Filipino football fans should definitely not miss out, and with the fixture available only via cable television broadcast through FOX Sports 2 and streaming via FOX+, here are some of the venues in key cities around the country where fans could gather as a group and witness the Azkals’ last match in Group C with the hopes of progressing to the knockouts:

QUEZON CITY

Kalye Sports Pub and Restaurant:Stalls 25-28, 2nd Floor, Wilcon City Center, Visayas Ave.
Quezon City

Malingap Central Food Hall: #40 Malingap Street, Teacher’s Village East, Diliman Quezon City

PASIG CITY

Buffalo Wild Wings Pasig:Estancia Mall, Camino Verde Road, Pasig City

MAKATI CITY

Howzat Sports Bar: 8471 Kalayaan Avenue, Makati City

H&J Sports Bar and Restaurant: Felipe Street 5781, Makati City [Hosted by Football Manila]

Kublai’s Rock: Paseo De Magallanes, Makati City

TAGUIG CITY

Skinny Mike’s Sports Bar: 2nd Street & Justicia Drive, BGC Fort, Taguig

CEBU CITY

First Five Sports Lounge and Cafe: Go Home Bldg, 341 F. Cabahug St, Cebu City

BACOLOD CITY

Hat Trick Sports Grill: The Marketplace, Circumferential Road Bacolod City

DAVAO CITY

JT’s Manokan Grill Davao: Zone C Unit 6, Damosa Gateway, Damosa Complex, Lanang
Davao City

Kyrgyz Republic vs Philippines Asian Cup 2019 Group C match kicks off at 9:30PM [Philippine Standard Time] to be held at Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai and will be shown LIVE on FOX Sports 2 and FOX+ via streaming.

It’s time to gather once again as fans in support of the Philippine National Football Team!

Photo credit: The Azkals

afc-asian-cup-2019-philippines-azkals-vs-china

Asian Cup: Quick thoughts on the Azkals’ 3-0 loss against China

After witnessing the Philippine Azkals’ 3-0 defeat at the hands of China in their second assignment in the Asian Cup, here are some quick take and views on the match.

It was a much bitter pill to swallow compared to the loss in the opener against South Korea given the hope that that particular match has provided heading into the clash against Marcello Lippi’s men. But in the end, it seemed the odds prevailed as an upset – a monumental draw at least – did not materialise.

Sensational Wu Lei – The difference

China’s forward Wu Lei has scored two majestic goals that went unanswered that proved pivotal for his squad in getting their second win on the bounce at the expense of the Philippines.

The first goal in the 40th minute virtually came out of nowhere as the Shanghai SIPG target-man unleashed a shot at a place and time that caught the defence unprepared.

It seemed an ill-advised attempt in which standard thinking would opt for a cross rather than a shot, but the effort was so good that it had enough power and dip to evade Michael Falkesgaard and find the back of the net.

The second goal from the same player in the 66th minute was top-class in terms of skill, as Wu Lei produced a spectacular volley from a set-piece delivery that had more than enough power and speed to beat Falkesgaard once again.

China’s third goal in the 80th minute proved to be just the icing on the cake as it could have been dealt much better by the Philippines’ defence.

I feel for the Azkals’ frontline

Even before the match, the Azkals were expected to have a much fewer number of chances than China, and it showed.

But with what few opportunities that were created by Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson’s men, they ended up either being saved, blocked or missing the target.

China were able to frustrate the Azkals on the final third because the latter were only able to muster four shots, with none going on target as the statistics have shown [even Kevin Ingreso’s 1st half injury time shot was palmed away by Yan Junling even before it could be determined if the trajectory would shift down into target].

What’s next? Kyrgyz Republic

After the loss against China and with South Korea only mustering a goal in their win over Kyrgyz Republic, the Philippines see themselves at the bottom of Group C.

For now, as their third match of the campaign awaits on Wednesday, the Azkals should focus on recovery in the best possible way for them to be able to get a result against their last group phase opponents – regardless of their chances of getting into the knockout rounds.

For the squad, and the Filipino football fans, January 16 is gonna be the game of OUR lives!

Photo credit: AFC Asian Cup

philippine-azkals-afc-asian-cup-2019

Asian Cup: Azkals vs China -Viewing venues in Metro Manila and other key cities

Are you currently in Metro Manila and would like to watch the Philippine Azkals’ AFC Asian Cup 2019 match against China with other football fans on January 11?

Sometimes, watching a football match with other fans is a far better experience than watching it in the comforts of one’s home. So here are some venues where you could catch the crucial fixture within Metro Manila.

Note: This is not a comprehensive and complete list, but the venues mentioned have high probability that the atmosphere will be a good one due to the presence of football fan groups. Also, this is not a paid endorsement or advertisement of sorts.

Kalye Sports Pub and Restaurant

Situated along Visayas Avenue, this is quite a spacious place which is a hangout for Quezon City-based football fans who would like to witness a match or two with their friends while enjoying food and drinks.

Of course, Azkals matches are sure to be featured so this is a definite place to check out!

Kalye Sports Pub and Restaurant is located at Stalls 25-28, 2nd Floor, Wilcon City Center, Visayas Ave.Quezon City, Philippines. Business hours are everyday from 10AM to 2AM the following day.

Howzat Sports Bar

Located along Kalayaan Avenue, Makati, Howzat is one of the usual places for football fans in the city, both locals and expats, to hangout and catch a game of football on TV.

Howzat Sports Bar [according to their Facebook page] is open from 9AM to 2AM the next day, but their business hours can extended depending on the matches being featured.

Address: 8471 Kalayaan Avenue, Makati

Buffalo Wild Wings [Pasig branch]

With several branches within Metro Manila, it’s most probable that the one in Estancia Mall in Pasig is the one where you’ll find football fans due to its proximity to the Philippine Football Federation’s headquarters – The PFF House of Football.

Buffalo Wild Wings Pasig is located at Estancia Mall, Camino Verde Road, Pasig City.

Kublai’s Rock

Located at Magallanes, Makati City, Kublai’s Rock is where most of Ultras Filipinas are going to watch and show their support for the Azkals.

Kublai’s Rock is located at Paseo De Magallanes, Makati City.

BONUS: Where to watch outside Metro Manila

Of course, this will also include some venues in key cities outside the metro for those who are interested to watch the match.

Bacolod: Hat Trick Sports Grill

If you are a football fan and you happen to be in Bacolod, Hat Trick Sports Grill should not be missed in your itinerary.

Hat Trick Sports Grill is located in The Marketplace, Circumferential RoadBacolod City

Butuan City: City Hall Grounds

Now football fans in Butuan City are in for a real treat as a public viewing will be held in their City Hall Grounds.

Butuan City Hall is located at Jose Rosales Ave, Butuan City, 8600 Agusan Del Norte

So that it for now. Of course, this is not a complete list with several venues still missing.

But if you think there are other worthy places to visit in order to watch and show support for the Azkals in their match against China, feel free to add them in the comments section.

Philippines vs China Asian Cup 2019 Group C match is scheduled to kick off on January 11, at 9:30PM Philippine Standard Time.

Live telecast of the match via cable is on FOX Sports channel .

Photo credit: The Azkals Facebook Page

The new ‘crisp’ Azkals kits have dropped! But I have one request…

The new kits for the Philippine Azkals’ on-going maiden and historic AFC Asian Cup 2019 campaign have finally been released for purchase to the public last January 8.

Note: This is post is not for promotional or advertising purposes but a fan service for those who are into, or are interested in, football kits of the Philippine national football team.

And the finished products exhibit clean and classic looks that seem would never go out of style – befitting a milestone debut participation by the national squad in the continental stage.

Here are some images of both home and away designs that will hit the shelves:

Player edition pic: The ones in shop do not have player numbers and names and have slight differences in the tournament patches.
Philippines-Azkals-AFC-Asian-Cup-2019-kit-release
Player edition pic: The ones in shop do not have player numbers and names and have slight differences in the tournament patches.

The Azkals kits [home and away] are available as of this writing in Bootcamp Bonifacio Global City [BGC] store and are sold at Php 1,700 each.

For those opting to add a customised nameset, an additional Php 300.00 will be charged with the shirt to be claimed approximately 1 week after.

But I have one request [a wish]…

Can these kit designs be also the same for the women’s national team and the junior teams we have?

Because through the years [in recent past until now], each national team have their own kit designs [and supplier].

Such a situation when it comes to football in the Philippines is quite different compared to most other nations where their teams share the same design [or at least brand/supplier] when it comes to their outfits.

England released their new outfits for almost all squads
A video on US Soccer’s third kit release in men and women’s variants

I don’t know how the powers that be in Philippine football handle such football equipment supplier matters for different teams, but it most probably is complex [I hope I’m wrong]. But a question comes to mind: Do we really need to make such things complicated?

I do hope in the near future, if there are new kits that will be unveiled, they will be known not just as Azkals kits, but as Philippine National Football Team kits.

Because in the end of it all, we are ONE TEAM – PILIPINAS!

Photo credits: LGR Sportswear