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WCQ2022: Shaky first half by Azkals gave Syria 1-0 edge

A first half that lacked composure from the Philippine Azkals served to be their own undoing as Syria’s lone goal proved decisive in their joint World Cup 2022 and Asian Cup 2023 qualifying match held last November 19, 2019 at the Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Azkals assistant coach Scott Cooper fielded a side with a few changes from the ones that started in the match against Maldives as Martin Steuble goes back in the defensive end while Angel Guirado and Curt Dizon also made the Starting XI.

The changes prompted Iain Ramsay to deputize as the left-back in place of Daisuke Sato, who is in the substitute’s bench after receiving a knock in the previous match in Male.

In the early moments of the match, Philippines’ defender Alvaro Silva was quickly cautioned with a yellow card after a challenge on Al-Soma as Syria showed signs of fluidity in their passing play.

A sixth minute speculative effort from a counterattack came for the Azkals with forward Angel Guirado firing from a tight angle forcing Syrian keeper Ibrahim Alma to a diving save and awarding the Southeast Asians a corner kick that was easily dealt with.

Just as the Filipinos were able to get their bearings into the match, Cardiff City FC keeper Neil Etheridge was forced to produce a reflex save to deny Osama Omari from a slightly angled position.

In the 20th minute Patrick Reichelt may have thought that he got to the ball in a very promising position to unleash a shot and break the ice for the Azkals, but the linesman promptly flagged for offside.

But Syria are keen to get a better grip of their lead in the qualifying group as they finally broke the deadlock off a cleverly executed set-piece that unleashed Osama Omari who then squared perfectly to an on-rushing Ward Alslamh to tap-in the goal in the 23rd minute.

In the 32nd minute, Kamel Hmeisheh almost produced something special from range for Syria only narrowly going over the bar as Syria continued with their ascendancy in terms of the proceedings as the first half progressed.

For the few moments that followed, the Philippines seemed to have been chasing shadows as the Qasioun Eagles further improved with their crisp passing plays.

The remaining minutes have been tense and nervy for the Azkals, defending for the most part, as Syria were able to maraud into the box almost at will.

In the 41st minute Omari once again proved to be one of the main thorns for the Philippines after unleashing a venomous strike from distance that Etheridge was able to parry away.

In the 43rd minute Syria’s towering striker Omar Al Somah almost made it two-nil, but his effort inside the box just sailed wide of the far post as the Filipinos’ problems continue to pile up near the half-time break.

A rare attacking breakthrough arrived in the second minute of added time as Guirado was fouled for a set-piece opportunity, then another corner-kick, but both plays have been snuffed out by the Syrians as halftime arrived, more to the relief of the Azkals, with the more superior middle-easterners ahead by only a goal.

After the restart, at the 49th minute, Neil Etheridge collided with Al-Soma in an offside play that put a momentary stoppage in the proceedings but the Filipino goalkeeper, who have been on the receiving end of that particular collision, turned out to be okay as play resumed.

In the 51st minute Stephan Schrock produced a powerful low drive from 30-yards out but Syria’s Alma was able to gather the attempt.

A well crafted play in the 54th minute for the Azkals had Curt Dizon laying off a well-weighted pass towards Guirado who had only Alma to beat but his effort rolled just agonizingly wide of the right post.

Two minutes later, Syria were awarded a freekick in a very dangerous position for the Azkals but Al-Soma’s attempt for the spectacular just narrowly missed the target.

Mark Hartmann’s introduction proved to be the first change for the Philippines as he replaced Angel Guirado in the 58th minute of the match in a bid to provide a different dimension in attack.

As the hour mark came, the Philippines had already produced a much improved showing compared to the whole of the first half.

In the 63rd minute, a last gasp intervention by the Filipino back-line denied Syria a chance for an attempt inside the box and avoid a sure dangerous situation.

Seven minutes into the hour mark, Mike Ott replaced Curt Dizon to provide fresher legs in attack, just as the Filipinos are finally getting some better spells in possession and attacking plays.

In the 70th minute, Syria injected their first change with highly rated Omar Kharbin replacing Omari.

A minute later, Azkals captain Stephan Schröck tried to pull off a curled effort but Alma was able to deal with the attempt easily as another heroic move from the Syrian keeper immediately followed, denying Mark Hartmann’s well-struck effort inside the box off a service from Mike Ott.

Moments before heading into the 80th minute, the Azkals were able to come up with some promising forays into the Syrians’ half as the search for an equalizer ensued.

Five minutes before the 90th minute mark, Neil Etheridge pulled off another set of heroics outside his box to deny Syria a chance to increase their lead.

Even though the Azkals kept pushing forth for a leveller, it was actually Syria who got the gilt-edged chance as Almawas’ curler just missed its intended target with Etheridge seemingly caught in a not so good position to defend.

Despite a tense four minutes of added time, the middle-easterners held on to their slim advantage with Alma producing another last minute denial this time of Mike Ott.

An end-to-end action ensued with Al-Soma missing a sitter to erase all doubts but the Syrians eventually got the win, just barely to maintain their place in the driver’s seat of Group A with a perfect 15 points out of five matches.

The Azkals meanwhile remain at third in the standings with 7 points behind China (who now have a game in hand) just on goal difference.

A lengthy break in qualifying fixtures immediately follows for the Philippines’ senior side as the next match is set late in the first quarter of next year, specifically in March 26, 2020 with Guam visiting for the return leg.

Photo credit: Asian Football Confedration

Of Fortitude and Grit: On the Azkals’ monumental WCQ2022 draw vs China

With progressing to the third round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers on the line, the Philippine Azkals just achieved a massive goalless draw against a much higher ranked China last October 15, 2019 in Panaad to earn probably its most precious point in its entire history of competing in international football.

China, ranked 59 places above the Philippines in the most recent FIFA rankings at the time of this writing, came to Panaad with the favorites tag. But after the final whistle, both teams ended sharing the spoils in a stalemate encounter that may have gone either way.

Here are some five reasons why relative underdogs, the Azkals, were able to pull off quite a notable result in international football.

NEIL ETHERIDGE WAS A ROCK

Cardiff City FC shot-stopper, Neil Etheridge, had been in fine form against China’s Dragons, pulling off some amazing stops to earn himself and his team a clean-sheet against a side known for its firepower.

Neil’s return to the national squad after missing out all the previous matches in 2019 due to club commitments and, lately, to recover from an injury provided a notch in the squad’s defensive solidity.

In a match against a side which has its attack and speed as its most notable strengths, the Azkal’s Cardiff Bluebird rose highly to the occasion when the defensive line has been breached and it was only him left to tend to and snuff out the adversaries’ attempts.

Although Etheridge may have his saves as his biggest highlights against the Chinese in the Azkals’ 2022 World Cup qualifying fixture in Panaad, it is to note that the sentry have also been a catalyst for his team’s counterattack on at least two occasions with his quickly taken long throws towards the forward line, making him a situational playmaker which was a much welcome additional facet in the Filipinos’ game that night.

Etheridge’s experience, and commendable stint, playing in the English Premier League the past season may have contributed as one of the main ingredients as to why the Azkals were able to go to-to-toe against China, with the Filipino sentry able to come up with several fine saves, against the opposition.

THE AZKALS DEFENDED TO WIN

In contrast to the Syria match that transpired in Panaad, the Philippines approached the match against China by being more mindful on the defensive end as evidenced by the five-man backline on the starting lineup, with Mark Hartmann as the sole striker.

But despite the seemingly cautious and conservative formation employed by coach Goran Milojevic and his staff, the Filipinos showed the necessary impetus on the attack every time they got possession of the ball by taking chances, and half-chances, wisely on a number of occasions with Hartmann, Martin Steuble, Daisuke Sato, and substitute Angel Guirado having moments to either test the Chinese backline or even coming close to converting by testing opposing keeper Yan Junling.

The wing-play also did contribute to some buildups, but their battling approach in both flanks along with the midfield and central defense had been instrumental in several key duels for possession that have contributed to some of those promising counterattacks.

Despite some errant forward passes, which could be expected for a counterattacking approach, the Azkals overall may have executed the gameplay almost to a tee as they set out to frustrate China which the Philippines did, while knocking on the supposed superior side’s door on several occasions in a match that may have gone either way.

ANGEL GUIRADO STILL HAS IT

Former Davao Aguilas forward, Angel Guirado, continued his Azkals renaissance almost pulling off a dream impact sub moment when he tested China with a potent shot on target just a few moments after his introduction in the 78th minute in place of John Patrick Strauss.

The 34-year-old journeyman striker who had stints with several clubs in Europe and Asia, the number of which may have made an entire football squad, may have further cemented his case in the Azkals coaching staff to still be a significant contributor either as a starter or (as presented in this match against powerhouse China), an impact substitute.

Despite the current Chonburi forward’s age, which is already considered advanced in the normally fleeting career shelf-life of a footballer, Angel Guirado continues to show that he still has significant things to offer as he comes closer to the twilight of his Azkals playing days.

AMANI’S RETURN A DEFENSIVE BOOST

Another notable moment in the match against China, homegrown talent Amani Aguinaldo of Malaysian club PKNP saw action in the second half when he replaced injured Justin Baas just a few moments after the hour mark.

His brief involvement proved to be commendable one as he was able to contribute immensely at the back when China were already desperate to carve out a winning goal.

Along with fellow substitute Luke Woodland of Kuala Lumpur FA, who also provided a solid shift in place of also injured Carli De Murga, Aguinaldo’s being back in the thick of things after a recent stop-start spell due to injuries could be a boon for the Azkals’ defensive options ahead of these gruelling and intermittent international football campaigns.

BACK AND FORTH DYNAMICS SHOW PROMISE BIGGER THAN AZKALS’

The 4-2 loss against Syria a month ago may be caused by several factors, one of which could be the tactical side of things. But the recent monumental 0-0 draw at home against China could serve as a template on how the Azkals should approach future World Cup and Asian Cup qualification campaigns.

Despite employing a defensive 5-4-1 formation, the Philippine 11 actually were far more enterprising on the pitch than what the prematch paper showed. Several times, through a disciplined and smart approach in defending and utilizing possession, the Philippines were able to keep at bay and even threaten their supposedly superior Chinese counterparts.

The cardiac nature of that fixture, which greatly belied the goalless stalemate in the end, proved that the match may have gone either way (yes, even in favor of the Azkals who are the David to China’s Goliath). That match just showed the massive potential that this national squad is slowly beginning to unfold, at least in the Asian level of the international football sphere.

The mix of veterans and new young players, including those who are yet -but already set – to join in, gives further assurance that the Philippine National Football Team program is heading to. And with what they have shown and achieved in that mid-October night in Panaad against an Asian giant, it seemed the Azkals have found a bit of their playing identity which they could further consolidate for the immediate match-days.

But there are still a lot of grounds to prove on for the entire Philippine National Football Team programs, especially the youth levels that for the longest time are aching for positive results with the U-22 2019 SEA Games as the most pressing one and something to keep a close eye on with the events transpiring here in the Philippines.

But whatever surface the Azkals may have scratched out of that precious point against World Cup winning head coach Marcelo Lippi and his men on that fateful night in Bacolod in terms of the approach identity to playing, could be something that maybe further explored and, hopefully, applied to and – more importantly – work down to the youth squads.

May that come to pass.

Photo credit: PFF

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Azkals’ long road to Qatar World Cup 2022 qualification set

The Philippine National Football team is set to face powerhouse teams Syria and China as its initial path to World Cup qualification has finally been determined after the draw for the second round of the Asian Football Confederation [AFC] qualifiers has been concluded this Wednesday, July 17, at the AFC headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Drawn in Group A with Maldives and Guam along with the aforementioned Asian footballing giants, the Philippines first phase of the journey to the pinnacle of international football competition which will be held in Qatar has been laid out. It will also serve as the springboard for the Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers which will be held in China.

Meanwhile it is an important footnote that Group G turned out to be an ASEAN ‘Group of Death’ with the regions powerhouses such as Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia finding themselves altogether with continental powerhouse UAE as the only outsider.

The first match of Group A is set to begin on September 5, 2019.

Photo credit: PFF

Azkals’ Neil Etheridge back in PH, shares valuable Premier League experiences

Cardiff City FC’s Filipino goalkeeper Neil Etheridge is in the country for a three-week vacation. But he made time for the media in order to impart some of his experiences in the recently concluded Premier League season and his plans with regards to the Azkals and what’s next for him with Cardiff City.

During the roundtable, he shared his personal views regarding Cardiff City FC’s Premier League campaign and how the season unfolded.

Despite his club eventually being relegated down to the Championship after the 2018-19 campaign, the Filipino shot-stopper was able to come up with a commendable performance all-season long, notching 10 clean sheets with 141 total saves and three penalty saves (two of which were in his Premier League debut).

“At the end of the day, it’s a team sport… You win together, you lose together,” Etheridge shared to the media focusing more on the team rather than dwelling on his personal achievements and milestones.

“Ultimately, at the end of the season, we fell short by two points and were unable to stay in the (Premier) League,” added Neil.

STILL A BLUEBIRD

It is to note though that given the Azkals sentinel’s commendable efforts and good overall form in manning the posts for The Bluebirds, despite the drop to the Championship for next season, speculations started to hover regarding Neil in terms of a possible return to the top flight via a transfer to a Premier League club, with West Ham as one of the first of such to be rumoured as having an interest.

However, amidst such rumours, Cardiff City’s current first choice sentry made it clear that, at this very moment, he is still with the Welsh club.

“At the end of the day, I (still) got two years left in my contract with Cardiff (City) and the future is out of my hands,” Etheridge shared.

CONTINUING WITH THE AZKALS

Neil Etheridge also touched on his current situation with the Azkals declaring that he wants to be in the squad, particularly in the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers in September this year.

He also emphasised that he has been with the Philippine National Team for 11 years, starting when he was just 18-years-old, and with such a length of involvement, he doesn’t want to just drop all those just for the sake of concentrating on his club career.

“I want to continue being a part of the Azkals. I feel like I have a lot more to give,” said Neil.

A SUCCESSFUL TESTAMENT OF WILL AND FORTITUDE

It has been known that Neil’s path to the current level he is in right now as a highly regarded goalkeeper has not been easy.

A promising career early on experienced challenges along the way. However, his persistence and focus eventually put him back at an upward trajectory towards the highest level of competition possible in England – the Premier League.

Such success story make him an example for many. Hence, when asked for advise and message of encouragement in conquering obstacles, especially to people who look up to him as an inspiration here’s what the now larger-than-life Azkal has to say:

“First of all thank you to everyone who supported me. It has been a long journey to get to where I am. It hasn’t been easy. It was a roller-coaster ride. But, ultimately, I think I have the ability to get to where I am. Challenges aren’t just on the field, but off the field too.”

“I’m talking to everyone who’s doing their own job (but are) finding it hard, to look always for the positives, always try to find the light at the end of the tunnel because there’s always one and I hope they find it one day.”

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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.”

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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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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

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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

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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

Azkals Asian Cup 2019 focus: Massive defence against South Korea

The Philippines may have began their AFC Asian Cup 2019 debut campaign with a 1-0 loss. Despite that, the result actually surpassed expectations, as the Azkals proved the naysayers, doubters and oddsmakers – who predicted a lopsided win for the superior South Koreans – wrong.

Behind that result was a resolute defending by Sven-Goran Eriksson’s men. This aspect makes this discussion focus on the defence, namely the back four consisting of Luke Woodland, Alvaro Silva, Stephan Palla, Daisuke Sato and goalkeeper Michael Falkesgaard.

An almost impenetrable backline

The Azkals’ defence has been tested for most of the match. Even with most of the Azkals retreating in their own half for the most part, the back four still had a very busy day. But in spite of that and the one-sided predictions, the Philippine backline were able to hold fast for the most part.

First up is Stephan Palla, who was able to shine on the clearances department as he was able to clear more than a handful of threatening deliveries by the opposition.

Next is Daisuke Sato, who had been a constant defensive live-wire and a bridge as well towards mounting a counter-attack from the left part of the pitch. He also was able to pull off [maybe] a clean tackle or two.

For Luke Woodland, most of his contributions came from some timely blocks that he was able to pull-off denying some possible goal-bound shots in favour of the Taeguk Warriors. His excellent positioning in some of those dangerous plays helped the Azkals keep themselves well in the match.

Goalkeeper Michael Falkesgaard meanwhile was able to thwart almost all of maybe a handful of shots he faced from the Taeguk Warriors, save for one – Hwang Ui-jo’s 67th minute winning goal.

Lastly, Alvaro Silva who most definitely was the man of the match – with striker Javier Patino probably an honourable mention – came up with a stellar performance as he won a good amount (more than a handful for sure) of duels he has encountered. Aside from that, Alvaro definitely produced the most number of timely clearances. Alas, his mistimed sliding attempt to intervene with Hwang Hee-chan’s delivery led to the winning goal.

But an almost bonus contribution on the other end, Alvaro Silva came close to producing the equaliser for the Azkals in the 79th minute, if only he was able to come up with a better contact with the ball via a header off a corner-kick from substitute winger Iain Ramsay.

Disciplined defending at a high order

Despite numerous amount of attempts and sustained pressure from the South Koreans, the Philippines’ defence stood firmly while showing maybe the highest level of discipline and constraint that the team were able to recently, as no defender suffered a booking in the course of the whole match.

Now that’s a boon for the squad as the starting defenders carry no cautions heading into another daunting assignment against current Group C leaders China on Friday, January 11, in Abu Dhabi.

Photo credits: The Azkals Facebook Page