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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

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Thai club Chonburi confirms acquisition of Azkals forward Curt Dizon

Top Filipino football talents’ moves to Thai League 1 continue with Curt Dizon’s transfer to Chonburi FC from Ceres-Negros being the latest development.

The deal was completed and confirmed as of July 17 via official sources making Dizon the fifth player from the same Filipino club to make the jump to the Southeast Asian neighbor along with Kevin Ingreso, Alvaro Silva, and Martin Steuble.

With Chonburi, under manager Sasom Pobprasert, currently in mid-table at ninth place in the on-going League 1, the club will expect 25-year-old Dizon to provide the necessary impetus with the hopes of further improving their place in the table and avoid a possible relegation battle in what seems to be a tightly contested season.

Curt Dizon is a pacy forward-winger who operates on the left with Ceres and has the capability to either create chances for his teammates or score goals. His strengths lie mainly in his pace and dribbling ability – tools that could help him succeed in his new club.

Aside from a successful tenure with Ceres-Negros, where he helped the club win the 2018 domestic league, Curt also played for Philippine-based clubs Global FC and FC Meralco Manila.

Dizon also has been a regular mainstay in the Azkals squad amassing 16 competitive appearances for his country including the AFF Suzuki Cup and the historic 2019 AFC Asian Cup campaigns.

Dizon and Chonburi are scheduled to face up against Suphanburi which has fellow Azkals Alvaro Silva and Patrick Deyto on Saturday, July 20, at 9:00PM local time (10:00PM Philippine Standard Time).

Photo credit: Chonburi FC Facebook page

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Azkals star Manny Ott out for 3 months due to injury

Philippine Azkals midfielder Manuel Ott incurred a major injury ahead of the Thai League 1 season with Thai club Ratchaburi Mitr Phol that will deem him out for around three months.

Initial report via Goal Thailand points to an injured shin that happened while in preseason training that will make him miss the early part of the domestic league campaign.

The club posted the confirmation regarding the injury without giving much details on the extent, but have sent their wishes for a speedy recovery for the creative Filipino midfielder.

Before joining Ratchaburi Mitr Phol, Manny Ott has been one of the biggest names in his former club, Ceres-Negros, helping the Bacolod-based Filipino outfit to back-to-back domestic league titles and a strong showing in the AFC Cup in the past two seasons’ campaigns, triumphing in the ASEAN Zone for 2017 and reaching the same zone finals in 2018.

For the national team, Manuel Ott has been always a major consideration in the starting lineup for head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson in both the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup and the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.

Manny Ott could have been set to start for his new club in February 22, 2019 as Ratchaburi Mitr Phol commence its 2019 season against Trat FC if the fitness mishap did not occur. Hence, only Amin Nazari has the chance to represent the Azkals for the Thai club come the league opener.

Photo Credit: Ratchabuti Mitr Phol FC Facebook Page

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Azkals centre-back Alvaro Silva joins Ceres-Negros

After a highly commendable with the Azkals in both the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 and the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, Philippine Azkals defender Alvaro Silva officially joins Philippine Premier League side Ceres-Negros FC as announced via the club’s social media channels.

Alvaro Silva will be on a two-year contract as announced by the player through his Instagram post.

Before joining the Philippine Football’s top-flight reigning champs, Ceres-Negros, it was known that Alvaro’s contract with Malaysian Super League club Kedah FA had come to an end making him unattached during the Azkals’ international campaigns and it seems the Bacolod-based Busmen pounced on the opportunity to get the services of the defender to further enforce the backline.

It is to note that Ceres-Negros are about to commence an arduous 2019 AFC Champions League qualification campaign with a home fixture against Yangon United in the preliminary phase which is the first of three challenges before ensuring their participation in the tournament proper’s group stage.

Aside from coming in from Kedah, 34-year-old Alvaro Silva is an experienced defender making a name in Spain with Malaga from the youth ranks up to the senior squad, before being a journeyman starting with loans and stints with European clubs then into Asia with tenures in the Middle East with Al-Qadsia of Kuwait, East Asia with Daejeon Citizen of South Korea, and finally Southeast Asia with Ha Noi FC of Vietnam and the aforementioned Malaysian club Kedah FA.

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As for the Azkals, he has been part of Sven-Goran Eriksson’s starting lineup in both the AFF Suzuki Cup and Asian Cup campaigns. His supposed debut in a tournament proper for the Philippines in the Suzuki Cup had been delayed due to some paperworks that needed to be completed, until finally suiting up in a 1-1 draw against Thailand [Philippines’ third match of the campaign].

Ceres-Negros will have a friendly match against Kaya FC Iloilo in the afternoon of January 29, 2019 in McKinley Hill Stadium in Taguig before their February 5 fixture in Bacolod against Yangon United for the AFC Champions League qualifiers which will be shown on ESPN5’s 5Plus.

Related reading: Ceres-Negros announce key signings

Photo credit: AFF Suzuki Cup

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Azkals’ mercurial winger Patrick Reichelt #11 officially unveiled by Melaka United

The Philippine Azkals and former Ceres-Negros FC winger Patrick Reichelt has been formally introduced by his new club, Melaka United as an ASEAN import player during the kit and squad launch this afternoon of January 26, 2019.

Patrick Reichelt is assigned the number 11 in his kit as he joins Malaysian internationals, midfielder Safiq Rahim and goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi.

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After his duty with the Philippines in their historic first ever AFC Asian Cup campaign, Patrick Reichelt only passed by Manila for a brief stop-over before immediately heading to Malacca in southwestern Malaysia for his transfer.

His brief on-pitch appearance in a preseason friendly last January 21 served as his “unofficial introduction” to the Melaka United faithfuls while awaiting for his formal presentation.

Patrick Reichelt has been one of the brightest performers during the Philippine Azkals’ run to the semifinals stage in the recently concluded 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup where he was able to score two goals in crucial matches. He was also a starter under head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson during the whole of the Azkals’ 2019 Asian Cup participation.

More importantly, Reichelt has been one of coach Risto Vidakovic’s main cogs in Ceres-Negros’ “Machine of 2017-18” which ushered the club’s meteoric rise not only through its dominance in the domestic front [back to back PFL titles] but also in being a recognised Filipino club in the Asian continent through its competitive showings in the AFC Cup [2017 ASEAN Champions] and the qualifiers of the 2018 AFC Champions League.

As of the moment, the Filipino international is in the middle of trainings and preparations with his new club teammates for the 2019 Malaysia Super League season which begins on February 2, 2019 in a home fixture against Petaling Jaya City FC that kicks-off at 9:00 PM [Malaysia and the Philippines have no time difference].

The main purpose of the event was to unveil Melaka United’s kits for the 2019 season in which all players that comprise the squad ahead of the campaign were introduced.

Photo credit: Screengrab of Melaka United’s Facebook Live event

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Azkals winger Patrick Reichelt gets Melaka United introduction in preseason friendly win

Philippine Azkals and former Ceres-Negros winger Patrick Reichelt played for Melaka United of the Malaysia Super League for the first time as a late second half substitute in a 3-0 preseason friendly win against Sarawak last January 21, 2019 in Hang Jebat Stadium in Malacca.

EDIT: According to Patrick Reichelt himself via chat, he was initially not set to step on the pitch in the particular friendly, but head coach Zainal Abidin Hassan opted to play him in the final five minutes of the match as an introduction to the Melaka United faithfuls and fans.

Before Reichelt’s physical move to Malaysia, the Filipino footballer has been one of the more effective players in the Philippines’ run to the semifinals in the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 campaign by bagging two goals, making him the top-scorer for the Azkals in the tournament.

His relatively exemplary showing earned him regular starts for head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson in the national team’s three group stage fixtures in its historic AFC Asian Cup debut.

Patrick Reichelt’s transfer to the Malacca City-based club puts him under the tutelage of current club head coach Zainal Abidin Hassan – a legend for the Harimau Malaya and considered the country’s best player in the 80’s and 90’s.


Malaysia Super League [also known as Super Liga Malaysia] is set to commence its 2019 season on February 1, 2019.

Melaka United is scheduled to begin its campaign on February 2, 2019 in a home fixture against Petaling Jaya City FC [formerly MIFA] which will pit Patrick Reichelt against former Ceres-Negros teammate and fellow Azkal, Joshua Grommen.

Photo credit: Melaka United Facebook Page

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Azkals’ Iain Ramsay officially unveiled by Sukhothai FC

The Philippine Azkals’ winger Iain Ramsay has been formally announced by Sukhothai last January 21 as one of their latest additions ahead of the 2019 Thai League 1 season.

After suiting up for the Philippine squad in its AFC Asian Cup debut as one of the key substitutes under Sven-Goran Eriksson, Ramsay headed to Thailand for the announcement of his acquisition.

Before joining Sukhothai FC, Iain Ramsay played for Felda United in the Malaysian Premier League where he was able to help the Pahang-based club win the title and get automatic promotion to the top-flight, the Malaysian Super League.

Operating lately as an advanced left-winger with a primary role as a provider, Ramsay is likely to be expected initially to do the same for his new club by knocking in dangerous crosses for his team’s strikers to work on. But, it is also of note that the Filipino is a capable goalscorer if an opportunity arises.

Ramsay will play under manager Ljubomir Ristovski as the club aims for a much better showing in 2019 after concluding the previous season in the lower half of the standings at 11th place out of the 18-team league.

Thai League 1 commence its 2019 season on February 22.

Photo credit: Sukhothai FC Facebook Page

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Manny Ott begins training with Thai club ahead of 2019 season

Thai League 1 club Ratchaburi Mitr Phol has just released the images of their Monday [January 21, 2019] training session via their official social media channel with Azkals and former Ceres-Negros FC midfielder Manuel “Manny” Ott in the team, confirming his club transfer.

Posted by Ratchaburi Mitr Phol FC on Monday, January 21, 2019

Manny Ott’s departure off that proverbial yellow bus of Bacolod – along with winger Patrick Reichelt [who, as of this writing, is already in Melaka, Malaysia and is believed to be set in joining Melaka United] – presents a significant void for Ceres in terms of playmaking and creativity from the middle of the park, prompting The Busmen to sign new key players to address the gap.

Ott’s arrival to Ratchaburi means that he joins fellow Azkal Amin Nazari [also a midfielder and younger brother of Ceres-Negros’ Omid Nazari] who was acquired from Finnish club IFK Mariehamn. Both Filipino internationals will play under current manager Manuel Márquez Roca of Spain.

Ratchaburi Mitr Phol finished the 2018 season in the lower half of the standings at 12th out of the 18-team League 1 and is definitely targeting a much better campaign for 2019.

The Thai League 1 season is scheduled to begin on February 22, 2019.

Photo credit: Ratchaburi Mitr Phol Facebook page

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Ceres Negros announce new key signings as some stars move out

With the Philippine Azkals’ AFC Asian Cup participation coming to a close, the offseason cycle of player transactions come into full throttle starting with Ceres Negros confirming their new players ahead of the 2019 Philippine Premier League and AFC seasons.

Four players who will provide the much needed reinforcements in key areas of the pitch are Miguel Tanton, Dennis Villanueva, Dylan De Bruycker and Angelo Marasigan. The information has just been made official by the Bacolod-based club via its social media posts in the morning of January 21, 2019.

Miguel Tanton, a defensive midfielder who can crank it up on the offensive end if needed as a playmaker and set-piece taker, joins the Busmen from Kaya FC Iloilo. His addition could be a major coup, maybe even the biggest this year, for the Panaad fortress due to his proven leadership qualities [he has been Kaya’s captain] and commanding presence as a combative player.

Dennis Villanueva, who plays in defence as of late, but is also a capable midfielder joins from recently Davao Aguilas. His footballing background is considered as on of his biggest strengths as he was honed in the Italian footballing system with SS Lazio’s youth team and playing league football in Italy before getting playing stints locally with Global Cebu and Davao Aguilas.

Angelo Marasigan, meanwhile, joins in from Global Cebu and is a player who can take multiple roles from the right flank but mainly as a winger. The 26-year-old comes in the squad as a possible reinforcement in the right flank with star right winger Patrick Reichelt already with Malaysian Super League club Melaka United.

As for the most promising acquisition for this year, it’s most probably Dylan De Bruycker who arrives, along with Dennis Villanueva, from Davao Aguilas. The 21-year-old midfield talent has been a part of the Azkals’ junior program since mid-2017 and has developed his football skills with Club Brugge’s youth setup in Belgium. With his playmaking ability, whether in the middle of the park or the right flank, he can fill the void left by Patrick Reichelt and ahead of the inevitable move of central midfielder Manuel Ott out of Ceres [initial rumors – yet to be confirmed – point that he is set to join fellow Azkal Amin Nazari with Thai League 1 club Ratchaburi Mitr Phol].

Ceres-Negros are scheduled to have a preseason friendly with Kaya FC Iloilo on January 29, 2019 in Taguig before formally kicking off their season with an AFC Champions League preliminary qualifiers fixture against Yangon United on February 5, 2019 to be held in Panaad Park and Stadium.

Photo credit: Ceres-Negros FC Facebook Page

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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