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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SEAG2019: Azkals U22 suffer first loss against Myanmar

Despite an equalizer late in the first half and a sustained pressure in most of the second, it wasn’t meant to be as the Philippine Azkals U22 suffer a 2-1 loss from a go-ahead goal in the 79th minute against Myanmar U22 in the Southeast Asian Games 2019 Group A men’s football encounter held in Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila last November 27.

The match began with the Philippines applying pressure against the Asian Lions even forcing a corner within the first five minutes of action.

Ceres-Negros talisman and national team captain Stephan Schröck has been lively in attack, initiating plays and supplying passes up front.

But Myanmar also showed some early signs of what they are capable of with glimpses of threatening speed on the counter.

The first clear chance of the match arrived for the hosts in the ninth minute when Gallantes saw his header go way over the crossbar off a feed from Schröck.

In the 13th minute, Myanmar demonstrated an almost moment of brilliance with midfielder Myat Kaung Khant unleashing a curler from the right edge of the box that only flashed wide of the far post.

The first quarter of an hour arrived with both sides settling well into the match with promising plays traded back and forth.

However the breakthrough did arrive for the lions in the 17th minute with forward Aung Kaung Mann capitalizing on the cleverly executed one-two pass that evaded the hosts’ defense and beat the arms of Azkals keeper Anthony Pinthus.

Philippines tried for a quick response, but the Burmese squad were able to hold on firmly onto their defensive tasks.

What followed is a spell of promising breaks in favor of Myanmar whose players were able to craft half-chances on a few occasions that raised some worry on the Filipino back-line.

Near the half-hour mark, Dennis Chung was able to exploit the right flank, earning his side a free-kick but Myanmar were not threatened in the ensuing set-piece.

After another chance arrived for the visitors a few moments after the half-hour, tried to push and build on a chance, to no avail as Myanmar once again almost successfully constructed another chance to increase their lead.

A brief stoppage followed when goalscorer Myat Kaung Khant suffered a knock from a corner-kick play, but the Burmese player turned out to be able to continue as play resumed.

It was all Myanmar at this point, as the Asian Lions found another gilt-edged opportunity in the 40th minute with a teasing low cross from the left side of the box that only failed to connect with a striker.

At around the 43rd minute, just as defender Edison Suerti was introduced, a rare golden opportunity arrived for the Azkals as Myanmar committed an uncharacteristically errant pass that saw the ball roll in front of the on-rushing, Chima Uzoka, but the forward took to much time to control the ball as the visitors were able to regroup and break down the possible opportunity.

The Philippines immediately made amends equalizing in the first minute of injury time as defensive midfielder Justin Baas unleashed a pile-driver inside the box off a feed from Dennis Chung from a well-timed cross initiated by mercurial midfielder Yrick Gallantes as both teams headed into the break all-square with one goal apiece.

After that equalizer, the Philippines immediately tried to build on the momentum after the restart by piling the pressure from the get-go.

In the 49th minute a Chima Uzoka seemed to have committed a costly miss by blasting Schröck’s well placed cross towards him high in the sky. But to the relief of the Filipino fans, the play has been ruled for offside.

Despite Schröck’s inspirational leadership on the attacking end, Myanmar suddenly sparked things up on the other side in the 51st minute with an on-rushing counter-attacking play but Dennis Chung busted his lungs to track back and chase the man with the ball that led to a timely intervention to snuff out the attack.

The Filipinos immediately tried to regain the momentum and sustain it as they continued to pile the pressure relentlessly on their opponents as the Burmese resorted to defend in numbers and hopeful balls upfield.

And just after the hour mark, the hosts unwavering efforts almost got rewarded as Schröck shimmied his way into Myanmar’s danger zone at the left, unleashing another sumptuous cross that just evaded Uzoka, but kindly bounced towards Baas’ path whose low drive just missed the far post.

But Myanmar produced a scare in the 63rd minute with what seemed a decent counterattack that beat the Azkals’ backline only for the linesman to raise for offside.

A few minutes of kind spell in favor of the Azkals continue to follow as it has been all the hosts who have been able to build chances upon chances save for the go-ahead goal as Myanmar finally got a free-kick in the 71st minute, but Pinthus was able to smother the ball after initially spilling it.

Stephan Schrock has been pulling the strings in several of the plays for the Philippines but a momentary lapse gave Myanmar a glimmer of an attacking chance with Aung Kaung Mann breaking away from Amani Aguinaldo only to see his chance denied by Pinthus.

Myanmar saw another chance came begging with pacy substitute striker Win Naing Tun denied but it just served as a premonition as he found the back of the net in the subsequent play in the 79th minute when he received a well-worked lay-over from Myat Kaung Khant as the visitors regained their control of the driver’s seat.

The conversion somehow changed the complexion of the match as the Azkals lost the pressure they were able to bring to the opposition a few moments ago as Myanmar suddenly seem to be on the ascendancy late in the game.

In the 90th minute Anthony Pinthus made a crucial stop to avoid the Azkals from suffering a two-goal deficit by denying a clear one-on-one chance for Myanmar.

A late freekick for the Philippines taken by Schröck was saved by Asian Lions’ keeper Sann Sat Naing as time eventually expired with Myanmar getting their first win of the campaign at the Azkals’ expense with a 2-1 scoreline.

Philippines U22 will next face an important match against six-time SEA Games gold medal winners, Malaysia on November 29, 2019 at 8:00PM also at the Rizal Memorial Stadium while Myanmar face Timor-Leste in an earlier 4:00PM kickoff also in the same venue

Photo credit: Philippine Football Federation


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


Azkals top-scorer and ‘Living Legend’ Phil Younghusband retires from football

Right at the eve of the Philippine Azkals’ World Cup 2022 qualifier match against Syria, the country’s best goalscorer ever, Phil Younghusband, announced his retirement from the beautiful game which he posted via social media.

After a lengthy absence from football beginning on the end of the 2018 Copa Paulino Alcantara when his club Davao Aguilas lost in the final against Kaya FC Iloilo, which was further lengthened after being married and adjusting to the new lifestyle, it seems one of Philippines’ most recognizable sportsmen decided to hang up his boots for good.

The 32-year-old Filipino footballer was born in Surrey, England to a Filipino mother and an English father, and along with his older brother James Younghusband, began their young career within famous London-based club Chelsea FC’s youth ranks before embarking on and blazing a trail towards a fruitful and influential career in the Philippines beginning in 2009, playing with San Beda FC, Loyola Meralco Sparks (later known as Meralco Manila), and Davao Aguilas.

But Phil Younghusband’s biggest contribution to Philippine Football is his involvement with the Azkals which started in 2007 when he, along with brother James, decided to represent their mother’s roots, the Philippines, in international competition from the U21 side up until the senior squad.

A reliable and confident finisher in front of goal, Phil eventually racked up goals almost at will until amassing 52 conversions under his name which became the most scored for the Philippines in history.

His most important moment for the Philippines was scoring the second goal in the 79th minute against hosts Vietnam in the group stage of the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup, a major upset that has been dubbed as “Miracle of Hanoi” which then further boosted the country’s already newfound renaissance in international football.

Such was the immensity of his contributions to the squad that he also became the most capped player ever for the Southeast Asian nation with 108 in total.

An unexpected surprise

After Phil’s post, an outpouring of reactions and plaudits immediately came in reply from fans and colleagues alike, most especially from the football community such as former teammates and coaches.

Photo credit: The Philippine Football Federation


FIFA WCQ2022: Azkals captain Stephan Schröck looks for redemption against Syria

Just after the Philippine Azkals reignited their campaign and hopes of progressing to the third round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers after getting a 2-1 win against hosts Maldives last November 14, national team captain Stephan Schröck is looking forward to a better showing against a formidable Syrian side on November 19 in Dubai.

Speaking to the media during their pre-departure flight to United Arab Emirates, Azkals team captain Stephan Schröck shared the overall positive morale of the squad after getting the much needed win that put them in the same points haul with China in Group A standings.

“The (team) spirit is very good at the moment. Of course if you level points with China ( in the group) after four games… Who would have thought this (promising situation)?

“Now, if we get a good result against Syria we can maybe go out of the hunt (for survival) and look for something even bigger (in the next round).”

The Ceres-Negros talisman and spark-plug also heaped praise to his teammates who scored goals against Maldives, Iain Ramsay and John-Patrick Strauss.

“Both of them really had a good game and they deserve (scoring) these goals.

“Iain (Ramsay) worked very hard. (John-Patrick) Strauss was all over the place, chasing everyone over the pitch.”

The captain also did not forget to commend the whole squad during the course of the entire match.

“The whole team (gave) a great performance… We showed character in the second half.”

When asked about the upcoming return match against Syria (The Azkals lost their first meeting with the middle-easterners with a 2-5 scoreline), Schröck is looking forward to a much better output form the team.

“We’re looking to learn from our mistakes, and the next game will prove (just that).

“We’re looking to improve the result because it was a hard one for us to swallow that night (during the first meeting against Syria).

“We’re looking for redemption.”

Syria vs Philippines is scheduled to kickoff on Tuesday, November 19, at 10:00PM (Philippine Time). The Venue is at Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium.

Photo credit: Football Association of Maldives Facebook page


FIFA WCQ: Ramsay, Strauss score as Azkals snatch crucial win VS Maldives

Despite a costly missed penalty-kick in the first half, the Philippine Azkals produced a spirited second half display as Iain Ramsay and John-Patrick Strauss convert their chances en-route to an important 2-1 win against Maldives in a joint World Cup 2022 and Asian Cup 2023 qualifying fixture held in Male last Thursday, November 14, 2019.

Coming from a performance full of positives against China, The Azkals management opted to stick to virtually the same set of starters from that match with Luke Woodland the only change in place of Martin Steuble, who was suspended due to accumulation of yellow cards, on defense.

The match began with hosts Maldives trying to employ a more attacking approach by dominating possession while the visiting Philippine side were more cautious.

With the Maldivians’ positive start, a corner kick was produced in the 13th minute after a shot from Hamza Mohamed was deflected out of bounds by an Azkal player. The ensuing play did not produce a breakthrough though but the early dynamics of the game tipped more in favor of the hosts as they were able to come up with some clever combination plays.

In the 23rd minute Patrick Strauss received an elbow from Akram Abdul Gani during an aerial challenge that wounded the Azkal that put a brief pause in the proceedings as the Erzgebirge Aue midfielder received treatment.

Momentarily down to ten men, Maldives tried to take advantage as they crafted a couple of aerial long balls into the Philippines’ own box but the Azkals were able to scramble and defend their lines barely.

A golden opportunity did arrive just at the half-hour mark for Scott Cooper’s men as Patrick Reichelt saw himself in a very good position to shoot with only the keeper to beat but he may have took too much time to get his bearings as his shot was desperately cleared by a defender just in time.

The ensuing corner kick though produced a fortunate turn of events in favor of the Azkals as a Maldivian handled the ball inside the box for the Philippines to be awarded a penalty kick. But it turned out to be a chance that only came begging as Patrick Reichelt, who stood up to take the spot-kick, was denied the breakthrough.

Despite the denial, the penalty kick proved to be pivotal as the Filipinos began to slowly get a foothold in the match by being able to come up with better plays and forays into the opposition’s half.

After three minutes of added time that saw some sloppy plays from both ends of the pitch, the first half ended in a stalemate, with Reichelt’s missed penalty-kick a few moments after the half-hour mark serving as the most clear-cut chance for an icebreaker.

After the restart the Philippine Azkals tried to turn things around in terms of their approach to the game as they cranked up the urgency a few notches higher with Iain Ramsay firing an attempt inside the box that only sailed wide of the post.

Soon enough, Maldives were able to come up with their own well-crafted offensive response, almost successfully getting the icebreaker, but AZ Alkmaar defender Justin Baas produced an all-important intervention to thwart what could have been a sure-goal for the hosts.

But the goal did arrive in favor of the Azkals, with Iain Ramsay being rewarded for his previous efforts, as the Sukhothai FC winger showed a momentary piece of skill before unleashing a firm shot that beat the keeper to give his side a crucial advantage.

A crucial blow though for the Azkals ensued at the hour mark as a late tackle from a Maldivian player saw Daisuke Sato at the receiving end resulting to a knock to the Muangthong United defensive stalwart.

With Sato not able to proceed at full strength, he was replaced by Curt Dizon, the former Ceres-Negros wingman who now plays for Chonburi FC of Thailand.

In the 67th minute, a free-kick was awarded to the Philippines. Despite the attempt being at a considerable distance, Stephan Schrock produced an on-target effort which was smothered by Maldives’ keeper, Mohamed Faisal.

The Philippines immediately applied relentless pressure, giving Luke Woodland a good chance to score from range, with the hosts unsettled in defense, only to be denied by the bar. A scramble for the ball ensued, with Reichelt’s follow up unsuccessful. However, John Patrick Strauss was at the right place and time to slot in the loose-ball to double the lead in the 69th minute.

Despite the two-goal cushion, the Philippine Azkals were still far from danger as the Maldivians continued to push forward and get themselves into the game as testified by a 78th minute effort that tested Cardiff City FC keeper Neil Etheridge.

It continued to be a compelling match as the clock neared the 90th minute mark as the South Asians never let up with their efforts to come up with a result despite the piling odds against them with time already not on their side.

A late attempt for fightback from Maldives produced a late consolation in the end, but the two-goal cushion proved enough as full-time blew with the scoreboard showing 1-2 in favor of the visitors, setting up the Azkals for an all-important fixture against Syria on Tuesday, November 19, in Dubai.

The result maintains the Philippines’ place in third in Group A of the qualifiers and within arm’s reach of second placed China who face Syria later on the same day.

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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

Azkals’ Martin Steuble wins silverware in season debut with Thai club Port FC

An early second half goal by Sergio Suarez proved to be enough as Port FC edged Ratchaburi Mitr Phol to win the 2019 Chang FA Cup. The feat made Filipino international and Azkals defender Martin Steuble, who plays for Port, win a trophy in his first season in Thailand.

An evenly-matched first half unfolded in the FA Cup final with both clubs seeing chances to score only to fail in actually finding the back of the net in an encounter that could have gone either way within the first 45 minutes.

Ratchaburi Mitr Phol thought they have found the breakthrough just before halftime with Ivorian midfielder Lossemy Karaboue rattling the net off a rebound, but his effort was chalked off after verification using VAR that the goal was not valid.

Port FC provided the best response though in early in the second half as Spanish striker Sergio Suarez broke the deadlock in the 48th minute from a quick counterattacking play.

Ratchaburi came closest to equalising in the 88th minute of the match with a driven effort but Port’s goalkeeper Worawut was equal to it to maintain the precarious lead.

Martin Stueble was part of Port’s lineup as a substitute, while fellow Filipino international midfielder Amin Nazari started for Ratchaburi Mitr Phol in a losing effort.

It is to note that Steuble joined the Thai League 1 side last July 2019 from Philippine football’s powerhouse Ceres-Negros FC. And it seems his transfer may prove to be a rewarding decision winning a trophy in the first time of asking.

Photo credit: Port FC Official


Pinoy homegrown footballer Shanden Vergara earns NJCAA All-Region nod

After showing consistency in his regular season debut for Snow College Badgers Soccer team in the NJCAA, Filipino homegrown international footballer and Football for Humanity Foundation ambassador Shanden Vergara caught the eye of the tournament officials presenting him the All-Region Award.

The citation, which was confirmed via Football For Humanity‘s social media account a few hours ago (as of this writing), is a testament to his efforts during the elimination phase as he helped the Badgers earn a spot in the conference playoffs (Snow College is competing in Region 18).

His two goals and team-leading three assists may have proved crucial in the Snow Badgers’ march deeper into the 2019 season where they have a shot to compete outside of their region.

The tough road ahead

The award may just be the first step as his potential is finally getting realised, but an arduous journey still lies ahead as his team treads a crucial juncture in the playoffs with a tough conference finals match against leaders Salt Lake Community College up next.

Shanden’s award also required significant sacrifices as aside from being separated from his family, which he has attested in an online interview weeks ago, the former DLSU Archer and UAAP Season 81 Rookie of the Year needed to forego what could be a highly probable chance of playing with the Azkals U22 in the upcoming 2019 Southeast Asian Games due to his commitment with the Badgers.

But if Shanden and his team could continue to defy the odds and move further in the NJCAA tournament, then it could serve as a major boost and validation of San Carlos City’s pride as a special talent and product of Philippine football’s grassroots that may earn him a future call-up, not just with the U22, but even the senior Azkals sooner than later.

Photo credit: Shanden Vergara 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