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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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.
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.
The Philippine Azkals have three more fixtures for the remainder of 2019 with the World Cup qualifier match against China happening in a fortnight, and with the Philippines Football League (PFL) 2019 season in its end-phase, a few local players emerged as standouts that could merit a consideration to be in Azkals Head Coach Goran Milojevic’s near future squad.
In the Azkals that recently competed against Syria and Guam for the qualifiers, only OJ Porteria, Mike Ott and Sean Kane (all of Ceres-Negros) represented the domestic pro league. Meanwhile, homegrown PFL player Jovin Bedic of Kaya who probably may have also featured in the squad, suffered an injury which made him unavailable that time.
However, with the domestic season already poised for its conclusion and the performances of players for their respective clubs already becoming clear in terms of how they fared, here is a list of three proven in-form local PFL players who deserve to have at least a shot in being part of the national team before 2019 ends (in no particular order).
Nathan Alquiros (Stallion Laguna, Midfielder)
One of Stallion Laguna’s main offensive orchestrators from the middle of the park has been an engine for his squad this PFL 2019 season which is currently at solo third in the standings.
Being the one who usually pull the strings for Coach Ernest Nierras’ Biñan-based squad either in the center or right midfield, with an occasional license to advance and strike forward, the product of De La Salle University’s football program has been a model of industry for his club.
Nathan Alquiros’ vision, ball-control and ability to read the play and unleash a shot in promising situations make him one of the standout creative midfielders in the league, not to mention his willingness to put in the hard work on the defensive end – something that the Azkals coaching staff might need to have a second look to further add a dash of uncompromising industry to the midfield.
Definitely one of the most consistent performers for Stallion Laguna this season, Fitch Arboleda has been on a tear for his club either as a scorer or a creator.
The pacy winger has been one of the main focal points of Stallion’s attack and his current output of nine goals, which is tied at fourth, is a testament of how Fitch has become an indispensable part of the club for all these three years in the PFL, not to mention his proven ability to also provide an assist to a much better-positioned strike partner.
However, the Azkals’ wealth in the winger and forward roles may prove a tough challenge for the former University of the East standout in making the squad. But if the Azkals are somehow presented a void on the flanks, Fitch Arboleda definitely is an option that should not be ignored.
Jim Ashley Flores (Mendiola FC 1991, Forward/Striker)
Arguably the most deserving of a call-up at the moment, Ashley Flores has been one of the few, yet most significant, positives for an otherwise tough debut season for FC Mendiola 1991 in the PFL.
The former San Beda University product’s current total of nine goals makes him tied in the goal-scorers’ standings at fourth, but what makes his achievement all the more notable is he was able to score against all other opposing PFL clubs, including powerhouses Ceres-Negros and Kaya FC.
A proven scorer deployed either as a main or support striker, whether it’s from a spectacular individual effort or a bundled goal produced from pure graft, Ashley Flores’ qualities and current form definitely merit a chance for an inclusion to the Azkals in at last one of its future qualifier matches.
Alen Angeles (Mendiola FC 1991, Forward/Winger)
Jesus Melliza (Stallion Laguna, Forward/Midfielder)
Paolo Bugas (Green Archers United, Midfielder)
Marwin Angeles (Kaya FC Iloilo, Midfielder)
Joshua Dutosme (Ceres-Negros, Defender/Wingback)
YOUR OPINION COUNTS TOO!
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The 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign of the Philippine Azkals is about to begin as they face Syria at home in Bacolod on September 5, 2019.
However, the assignment facing coach Scott Cooper’s men is a tricky and dangerous one as although Syria will be heading as visitors into the crucial fixture, bringing a recent run of unfavorable results, the squad also known as The Eagles of Qasioun (which denotes the mountain near Damascus) are still a formidable squad for the Filipino team that is just beginning to hit its stride in the international football scene.
In the three times that Syria and the Philippines have faced each other (once in 1984 and twice in 2001), the Western Asians were the ones who ended up victorious.
Here are a few points, both good and bad, in relation to the Philippine Azkals regarding the dangerous Syrian national team.
The Good (What the Azkals can exploit)
Syria, with its current political issues as a nation, has affected the national team in terms of maintaining its previously lofty status as a footballing force in Asia.
Due to internal conflicts at home, Syria – for almost a decade now – played all of its designated “home” matches in neutral overseas venues.
The lack of a home-base eventually took its toll on the team in both preparation and results as The Eagles were only able to muster two wins in the year 2019 (in March 23 and July 8 respectively).
To further emphasize Syria’s downturn in terms of form, it wasn’t able to register a win in its most recent campaign which is the 2019 West Asian Football Federation Championship finishing with two draws and two losses putting the team in last place in Group A.
Leaky defense, in several instances, and a frontline that lacks firepower were the main issues that the Syrian side has had that has contributed to such unfavorable conclusions.
Syria’s recent, historically uncharacteristically poor form, is something that the Philippine Azkals could take note of and exploit, but these are just very minor points as we move to the threats and strengths that Syria possesses.
The Bad(What the Azkals should be wary of)
Although Syria is currently in the midst of a seemingly lackluster state in international football as already mentioned above, there are several points as to why this team is still very much a formidable force and most possibly a daunting task for the Philippine team to face in its bid to kickstart its World Cup qualification campaign on a high.
First and foremost, the most obvious, is the ranking of both squads. Syria is currently 87th (as of this writing) in the FIFA Ranking. The Philippines, meanwhile, sits further down at 126th. In the Football Elo ratings (which is a more realistic system in this writer’s opinion), Syria stands at 96th with the Azkals at 174th. Such a discrepancy, even on paper, puts the Azkals as underdogs.
Second, even if Syria is experiencing a low point (relative to its usual footballing standards) with its dismal run of results, it is important to consider that they are situated in West Asia, which is a very strong and competitive region in the Asian Football Confederation where several continental powerhouses (Saudi Arabia, Qatar) and dark horses (Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan, UAE) are included. Such a dip in form and performance (due to understandable factors that the likes of Syria is experiencing) are punished severely results-wise.
Third, with their dismal run hounding them, Syria is motivated to overturn such a streak and head coach Fajr Ibrahim’s men are preparing well for the match against the Philippines in order to seize a monumental away win and turn their fortunes for the better in the best possible situation which is the FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Such are just some of the reasons why Syria should not be take lightly and all the more that the Azkals should be wary and on-guard against this team.
Syria’s possible key players
FIRAS AL-KHATIB (Forward)
Despite being already 36-years of age, Al-Khatib is still a very much effective scorer both for club (Al-Salmiya) and country.
Such ability to put the ball into the back of the net front has been proven once again in the 2019 West Asian Championship when he top-scored as captain of his team with two goals.
With a rate of almost a goal in every other match (0.48), Al-Khatib is still very much a major threat if he will suit up and set foot on the pitch in Panaad on September 5.
AHMAD AL SALIH (Defender)
29-year-old center-back Ahmad Al Salih is one of the most capped players for Syria and will most likely to be in the squad against the Philippines.
A player with extensive experience in club football both domestically and abroad, Al Sahli will most likely be a key figure as one of the most dominant enforcers in the backline.
Aside from being primarily a defender, Al Sahli has the occasional penchant to score goals (mainly in set-plays) when needed.
OMAR KHARBIN (Forward)
Despite not featuring for the Western Asian Championships, Omar Kharbin might feature for Syria against the Azkals as the world cup qualifier match falls within the international break.
A player for Saudi club side Al-Hilal, but currently plays for Egyptian side Pyramids on loan, Kharbin is one of the in-form players for The Eagles of Qasioun.
Him being one of the only two players to find the back of the net in the 2019 Asian Cup proves his ability to deliver on the big stage.
OMAR AL SOMAH (Forward)
Saudi Arabian club Al-Ahli’s towering striker (at 1.93 meters), Al Somah has been a prolific scorer in club football, but has yet to translate that for Syria.
If called up in the match against The Azkals, the 30-year-old’s size and ever-present threat to light it up as a target-man could pose a real problem for the Philippines.
Philippines’ key strengths
Without getting into details, here are some factors that could play in favor of the Philippine Azkals:
Philippine weather has its quirks and could play in favor of The Azkals. The home support would be very much play a factor as well.
The Azkals currently have some key players of their own especially ones that are performing well both in the domestic league and leagues abroad.
If Scott Cooper’s men can build good chemistry within, then it’s possible that they can produce an unprecedented upset against the much higher-ranked Syria.
At this point, it might be considered that Syria might be a shadow of its former self in the football world, but it cannot be denied that the West Asians have a much better track record than the Azkals.
But if the Philippine Azkals will be able to execute well come kick-off and maximize the advantages they have at home, then it is very much possible for The Azkals to get dream start to the World Cup qualifiers.
The September 5, 2019 World Cup qualifier match between the Philippine Azkals and Syria kicks off at 7:30PM in Panaad Stadium.
Patrick Reichelt concluded his first season with Malaysia Super League club Melaka United last weekend with a successful individual performance with a double-figure haul of goals.
The 31-year-old Azkals winger’s move to neighboring Malaysia in late January after a significant and successful spell with Philippine domestic league champions Ceres-Negros proved to be a hit for the Malacca-based outfit as he scored a total of 10 goals in 22 matches for a rate of 0.45 goals per game.
The output produced in front of goal is enough for the Filipino international to be the leading scorer for his club and to be considered as one of the most effective forwards in the league putting him at fourth in the top scorers’ table.
Reichelt’s efforts proved to be crucial as well in helping his club finish in mid-table at sixth out of the 12-team competition in a tightly contested season that saw teams from third to sixth separated by no more than four points in the standings.
Another important footnote in this campaign is this is the first time that the pacy Akzal has played in every match without experiencing any health-related mishaps, something that the player has highlighted in his social media post.
Now that the league campaign has been wrapped up, Melaka United are now gearing for the 2019 edition of Malaysia Cup where they will vie for the trophy against 15 other clubs.
The draw for the 2019 Malaysia Cup matchups, and possibly the release of fixture dates, will be held on Tuesday (July 23).
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).
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.
After a brief sojourn with Malaysia Super League club PJ City FC, defender Josh Grommen completes a move to Thai League 1 outfit Sukhothai FC as confirmed by both the player and the club last Tuesday, July 17, 2019.
Grommen’s addition makes him the second Filipino player in the squad as he joins Azkals winger Iain Ramsay who joined in the previous transfer window.
High level details regarding his length of stay with the club is for the remainder of the current 2019 season with an option for an extension for another year.
Prior to his tenure in Malaysia, Grommen also played for Ceres-Negros from 2017-18 in which he was part of the champion squad that won the inaugural PFL season followed by a season-long stay with Davao Aguilas in 2019.
In his formative years as a footballer, he also played for the youth teams of Loyola, Brisbane Roar and Stallion Laguna. He also was part of the Western Pride squad for 2016-17.
From an international football perspective, the 22-year-old defender whose main role is the centerback position had earned caps for the Philippine U-22 and U-23 squads.
If given a chance to step onto the pitch, Grommen will be tasked to help his team finish strong and climb up the standings away from the dangers of relegation (Sukhothai currently stands in 13th place out of the 16-club league which is just one spot above the drop-zone).
Sukhothai FC will next face Samut Prakhan City FC at home on Sunday June 21 at 8:00PM local time (9:00PM Philippine Standard Time).
After initial reports that Philippine international Martin Steuble has left Ceres-Negros FC, the defender has formally joined Thai League 1 club Port FC last July 4, 2019 ahead of its Saturday match against Ratchaburi Mitr Phol.
Steuble ended his competitive appearance for the defending Philippine domestic league champions as the team captain in the AFC Cup ASEAN Zone semifinals loss against Hanoi FC.
His addition to the Central Bangkok-based club for the second half of the 2019 season (with an option to extend until 2020 according to reports) serves as a reinforcement as the Port Lions aim to finish strong in the campaign with the possibility of still winning the league.
Port FC are currently, as of this writing, in fifth out of the 16-team Thai League 1 after 16 matches, trailing leaders Buriram United by only four points proving that the race to the top is still hotly contested.
Martin Steuble operates mainly at the left flank (sometimes at the right) as a defender, but he can also take the midfielder role. And even if his main duties lie on the defensive end, he can also contribute on the offense as a conduit and supplier from the wings, and he can also score from range. His one goal (against Stallion Laguna) and an assist (versus Global FC) in the still early 2019 PFL season are a testament to his ability to contribute and be an option in attack.
Hailing from Switzerland, Steuble started his career within the Swiss footballing system where he played in several clubs such as Neuchatel Xamax, Grasshopper Zurich, Lausanne-Sport, FC Wohlen, and FC Wil. He also had a brief stint in the United States’ Major League Soccer with Sporting Kansas City before a significant spell with Ceres-Negros in the Philippines.
Martin Stueble also suited up for the Philippine Azkals, amassing 39 caps with three goals. The 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup campaign under legendary head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, which reached the semifinals stage, was his latest participation with the national team to date.
Port FC face Ratchaburi Mitr Phol in an away match on Saturday July 6, 2019.