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Azkals forward Mark Hartmann ends Ceres sojourn; joins PJ City

After a brief stay with Filipino champions Ceres-Negros FC, Philippine Azkals forward Mark Hartmann has completed another move, reportedly joining Malaysia Super League club Petaling Jaya City FC.

The development regarding his departure from Ceres has been confirmed yesterday by Hartmann himself via a social media post.

Although official confirmation has yet to be released, it is believed that his destination club is Petaling Jaya City FC, which in effect, completes its foreign quota in time for Malaysia Super League 2020 season.

Once the move is complete, 28-year old Hartmann is already no stranger to Malaysian club football as he already had previous stints with Sarawak FA and Penang FA respectively.

With the Filipino forward’s move away from Ceres, his short tenure as part of the busmen will be remembered for his contributions in the AFC Champions League 2020 qualification campaign where he featured as a substitute in the historic win over Thai club Port FC follow by the defeat against J1 League side FC Tokyo.

Before joining Ceres, Mark Hartmann played for Thai club Nakhon Ratchasima.

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Photo credit: The Azkals

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Ceres-Negros anticipate arduous AFC Champions League 2020 campaign

Philippine football’s domestic double champions, Ceres-Negros FC, are once again set to embark on their continental campaign for 2020 by facing Myanmar’s national league titleholders Shan United in the AFC Champions League preliminary round one match this January 20, 2019 at the Rizal Stadium.

Already qualified for the AFC Cup Group Stage, the Busmen are looking to take their chances with the hopes of qualifying for the group stage of Asian club football’s highest level of competition.

But it won’t be a walk in the park as stated by Head Coach Risto Vidakovic during the Philippine Sportswriters’ Association Forum last January 8 when it came to their first assignment Shan United given both competing clubs are virtually playing their first matches of their respective seasons with new key player acquisitions.

“This game is very important for us. If we want to go to the next round, we have to fight for it,” shared the Serbian mentor who was also quick to provide on how tricky the task at hand is going to be for his squad.

“[But] nobody knows what is going to happen [in the match] because both teams are going to play their first games [of the season]. Nobody knows how they are and how we are [tactically]. We’ll [have to] see.”

Ceres team captain Stephan Schröck stated that the team’s mindset is on winning their qualification campaign opener.

“It’s always on winning. Regardless if we are prepared or if we have a short time together or long time together (as a team), it’s always about winning… The mindset is prepared. Let’s see if the body will follow.”

Burmese club Shan United are coming into the match as Myanmar’s representatives after winning the 2019 National League undefeated, bannered by local standout forwards Zin Min Tun and Dway Ko Ko Chit. But their crucial acquisition in the offseason is Liberian striker Keith Nah who just played for rivals Ayeyawady United the previous campaign, scoring 10 goals.

Ceres-Negros have just completed getting the services (as of this writing) of Azkals striker Mark Hartmann who previously played for Thai club Nakhon Ratchasima, winger Hikaru Minegishi (formerly of JL Chiang Mai United), defender Josh Grommen (from Sukhothai FC), and Arnie Pasinabo (from Kaya FC) as reinforcements for the upcoming season. Meanwhile the current confirmed departures from the Philippine champions are midfielder Miguel Tanton, team captain Carlie De Murga (rumored to be heading to Thai club Chonburi) and youngster Charles Barberan.

If Ceres-Negros successfully get a positive result against Shan United, they proceed to preliminary round 2 where they will face Thai FA Cup champions Port FC in a week’s time in Thailand who have former Ceres captain and Azkals defender Martin Steuble in their ranks. And if ever the Busmen get through against Port, they go to Japan to face J1 league powerhouse Kashima Antlers as their final hurdle towards breaking through the Champions League group stage.

Ceres-Negros vs Shan United AFC Champions League preliminary round one kicks off  in Rizal Memorial Football Stadium on January 14, 2019 at 7:30PM.

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 defender Alvaro Silva unveiled by Thai club Suphanburi

After formally confirming his departure from Ceres-Negros FC last week, Filipino international Alvaro Silva joins Thai League 1 club Suphanburi FC as posted by the club through its official social media channel.

Silva fills in an ASEAN quota for the club, with two more slots available. It is to note that fellow Filipino footballer, forward Mark Hartmann, has transferred out of the club to join Nakhon Ratchasima last week.

35-year-old Silva comes into the club as a vastly experienced veteran with stints in Spain, particularly in Spanish clubs Malaga, Cadiz, and Xerez before having extensive tenures overseas, especially in Asia, where Philippine league champions Ceres-Negros has been his last stop before moving to Thai League for the first time in his career.

The Filipino colossus will have a tough task of helping his new club for the second half of the 2019 season as the War Elephants fight out of the League 1’s relegation zone which, currently, is precariously placed at 15th place out of the 16-team league.

On the international front, Silva has played as a starting defender for the Philippine Azkals in the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup and the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.

Silva can suit up competitively in the Thai League 1 as soon as Sunday, July 7, in an away fixture against top team Buriram United.

Photo credit: Suphanburi FC

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Azkals overseas: Patino, Palla face Falkesgaard in mouthwatering T1 clash

After the midweek AFC Cup action involving two Filipino clubs, it’s now time to focus on Filipino football players in overseas leagues as they play their respective fixtures this third weekend of March 2019.

The match that could gain the most attention for Filipino football fans might be in Thailand as Bangkok United, with Azkals Michael Falkesgaard as their main goalkeeper, host Buriram United, who have Javier Patino and Stephan Palla in their ranks in a clash between league contenders.

(Kickoff schedules are in Philippine Standard Time)

Daisuke Sato, DF – Sepsi OSK Sfantu Gheorghe [Romanian Liga I Playoff]

Sepsi OSK vs Universitatea Craiova: March 16, Saturday at 2:30AM

John-Patrick Strauss, MF – FC Erzgebirge Aue [German 2. Bundesliga]

Holstein Kiel vs Erzgebirge Aue: March 16, Saturday at 1:30AM

Kevin Ray Mendoza, GK – AC Horsens [Danish Superliga]

AC Horsens vs Brondby IF: March 18, Monday at 12:00AM

Jordan Jarvis, DF – Eastern Long Lions [Hong Kong Premier League]

Hoi King vs Eastern: March 17, Sunday at 2:30PM

Hikaru Minegishi, MF – JL Chiangmai United [Thai League 2 (T2)]

Nongbua Pitchaya vs JL Chiangmai United: March 16, Saturday at 9:00PM

THAI LEAGUE 1 (T1)

Marco Casambre, DF and Adam Reed, MF – Chainat Hornbill

Prachuap vs Chainat Hornbill: March 15, Friday at 9:00PM

Michael Falkesgaard, GK – Bangkok United vs Javier Patino, FW and Stephan Palla, DF – Buriram United

Bangkok United vs Buriram United: March 17, Sunday at 8:00PM

Mark Hartmann, FW – Suphanburi FC

Suphanburi vs Chonburi: March 16, Saturday at 7:00PM

Amin Nazari MF and Manuel Ott, MF* – Ratchaburi Mitr Phol

Chiangmai FC vs Ratchaburi Mitr Phol: March 16, Saturday at 6:45PM

Iain Ramsay, MF – Sukhothai FC

Pattaya United vs Sukhothai: March 17, Sunday at 7:00PM

*Manuel Ott is still recovering from a shin injury.

Photo credits: Buriram United, Bangkok United

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Azkals overseas: February 2019 weekend 4 fixtures

There’s a bit of a shakeup in the Azkals overseas lineup as Amani Aguinaldo and Luke Woodland join PKNP and Kuala Lumpur FA respectively in the Malaysia Super League.

Also, with the Thai League 1 beginning this weekend, it is going to be a pretty busy set of fixtures with the list of matches coming this week [all kickoff schedules are in Philippine Standard Time]:

Neil Etheridge [GK, Cardiff City FC – Premier League]

Cardiff City vs Watford – February 23 [Saturday], 3:45 AM

Daisuke Sato [DF, Sepsi OSK – Romanian Liga I Playoff]

Sepsi OSK vs Viitorul – Feburary 23 [Saturday], 1:00AM

Kevin Ray Mendoza [GK, AC Horsens – Danish Superliga]

AC Horsens vs Odense Boldklub – February 24 [Sunday], 9:00PM

John-Patrick Strauß [MF, FC Erzgebirge Aue – 2. Bundesliga]

Erzgebirge Aue vs FC Duisburg – February 24 [Sunday], 9:30PM

Hikaru Minegishi [MF, JL Chiangmai United – Thai League 2]

Sisaket FC vs JL Chiangmai United – February 23 [Saturday], 9:00PM

MALAYSIA SUPER LEAGUE

Joshua Grommen [DF, PJ City FC]: PJ City FC vs Kedah FA [Home] – February 22 [Friday], 9:00PM

Patrick Reichelt [MF/FW, Melaka United]: Johor Darul Ta’zim vs Melaka United – February 23 [Saturday], 9:00PM

Luke Woodland [DF/MF, Kuala Lumpur FA]: Kuala Lumpur vs Terengganu – February 22 [Friday], 9:00PM

Amani Aguinaldo [DF, PKNP FC]: PKNS vs PKNP – February 23 [Saturday], 9:00PM

THAI LEAGUE 1

Amin Nazari [MF], Manuel Ott [MF] – Ratchaburi Mitr Phol: Ratchaburi Mitr Phol vs Trat FC – February 22 [Friday], 9:00PM

Marco Casambre [DF], Adam Reed [MF] – Chainat Hornbill vs Mark Hartmann [FW, Suphanburi FC]: Chainat Hornbill vs Suphanburi – February 23 [Saturday], 7:45PM

Stephan Palla [DF], Javier Patino [FW] – Buriram United: Buriram United vs Chonburi – February 23 [Saturday], 8:00PM

Iain Ramsay [MF, Sukhothai FC] vs Michael Falkesgaard [GK, Bangkok United]: Sukhothai vs Bangkok United – Feburary 24 [Sunday], 7:00PM

Photo credits: PKNP FC Instagram, Kuala Lumpur FA Instagram

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A full Azkals squad now playing in Thailand

With midfielder Adam Reed’s joining with Thai League 1 club Chainat Hornbill, Thailand now has a full squad of eleven Filipino internationals playing in its football leagues.

Here is the list of Filipino footballers now signed with Thai clubs:

  • Javier Patino – Forward, Buriram United
  • Mark Hartmann – Forward, Suphanburi FC
  • Iain Ramsay – Winger/Midfielder, Sukhothai FC
  • Manuel Ott – Midfielder, Ratchaburi Mitr Phol
  • Amin Nazari – Midfielder, Ratchaburi Mitr Phol
  • Adam Reed – Midfielder, Chainat Hornbill
  • Hikaru Minegishi – Midfielder, JL Chiangmai United [Thai League 2]
  • Stephan Palla – Defender, Buriram United
  • Luke Woodland – Defender, Buriram United
  • Marco Casambre – Defender, Chainat Hornbill
  • Michael Falkesgaard – Goalkeeper, Bangkok United

Here’s how the Azkals 11 in Thailand would look like if lined up as one team [3-5-2 formation]:

Seeing the wealth of talent, it’s a pretty decent and competitive lineup that could very much stand to-to-toe against other clubs or teams.

Photo credits: Bangkok United, Buriram United, Ratchaburi Mitr Phol, Chainat Hornbill