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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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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

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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

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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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Quincy Kammeraad eager to earn SEA Games spot with Azkals U-23 callup

Not getting a callup for the AFF U-22 Championship earlier this year turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Filipino international goalkeeper Quincy Kammeraad as he shares his pride and excitement after receiving an invite for the Under-23 national team training camp this August in preparation for the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

Formerly with Global FC at one point in his career as one of the club’s most promising goalkeeping prospects, 18-year-old Quincy is currently playing in Amsterdam’s AVV Zeeburgia’s U19 squad in the Netherlands, and is looking forward to join the initial pool in preparation for the SEA Games, which will be hosted in Manila later this year.

“It’s the biggest tournament for the U-23,” admitted the young sentry in an online interview last Monday night, July 22.

“The whole country, the Philippines, is (going to) watch it. So we have to give the Filipino community some results.”

From the time that the invite has been received direct from none other than Azkals Team Manager Mr. Dan Palami last week, young Kammeraad has felt a sense of pride for another opportunity to represent the Philippines’ colors in an important competition.

“You have to be proud to receive a callup from your country. It’s a different feeling from playing for your club or league games.”

“Playing for the country is different. Every game is different. The feeling is amazing! You hear the anthem play before the game.”

Training of the national squad is set to begin on August 13 which will run until August 29. However, due to some academic commitments back in the Netherlands, Quincy will be leaving three days earlier.

Ready for the challenges

Despite being given the chance to suit up for the Philippines, the Amsterdam-based keeper fully knows that it is just the first step, that bigger hurdles lie ahead, and that he needs to pour out the best of his abilities to secure a place in the final squad that will compete in the SEA Games proper.

“I think at the age of 18, it’s really tough because I’m still a youngster. Same as two years ago in the U-19, when I was 16. I have to earn the respect (of my teammates) because I’m one to two years younger than the rest of the guys, even three! So I have to work four or five times harder (as compared to) the other guys.”

Quincy also shared that the fact that he is currently building his footballing career and receiving his training in Europe makes the weight of expectations and responsibility from the team, especially as a goalkeeper, even greater.

“That’s how it is (when it comes to expectations). I know what they ask from me and I will do anything for the country.”

Currently in the midst of the preseason preparation for his Amsterdam-based club, his current training regimen could benefit him come the U-23 training sessions next month here in Manila.

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Now standing at 1.85 meters (around 6’1″) Quincy Kammeraad is no stranger to the Philippine National Football Team setup with the 2018 AFF U-18 campaign being his most recent tournament where he was part of the squad. His eligibility to represent the Philippines lies with his mother, Cathy, who hails from Cebu.

The football tournament of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, which will be held within and the outskirts of Metro Manila, is believed to kick-off sometime in December which will be competed by U-23 teams of participating Southeast Asian nations.

Photo credit: Quincy Kammeraad|Facebook

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Filipino footballer Sato officially unveiled by Thai club Muangthong United

After spending two seasons in Romania’s top flight, Azkals left-back Daisuke Sato has been officially presented by Thai League 1 giants Muangthong United as their latest transfer window acquisition.

Unveiling of the club’s new players happened on Monday early afternoon (local time), June 24, 2019 in SCG Stadium.

The Filipino international returns to Southeast Asian Football as he joins his new club from Romanian Liga I’s Sepsi OSK and he is assigned with the number 22.

His inclusion in the squad fills up the Thai outfit’s third, and final, ASEAN foreign player quota in addition to Vietnamese goalkeeper Dang Van Lam and forward Aung Thu of Myanmar. He will be playing under new Brazilian manager Alexandre Gama and will also join Thai stars such as Teerasil Dangda, Adisak Kraisorn, Korrawit Tasa, and Charyl Chappuis.

Sato has been in Thailand since late last week. He was even seen in Muangthong United’s home ground, the SCG Stadium, as he watched his then prospective new club get a win against Trat FC last Saturday.

With Thailand’s transfer window set to begin this June 24, the club has unveiled their early swoops with Sato alongside Brazilian forward Derley.

Muangthong United is currently in a struggle to find form as it sees itself, as of this writing, in 14th place out of the 16-team league with the Filipino’s arrival being expected to reinforce the defense and boost their chances to turn their fortunes and avoid relegation in the league campaign.

Also, the confirmation of his joining with the Muang Thong Thani-based club makes Sato available for a competitive appearance as early as Sunday’s away fixture (June 30) against Prachuap.

Photo credit: The Azkals

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Azkals defender Daisuke Sato officially bids farewell to Romanian club Sepsi OSK

After a two-season stint, Philippine international defender Daisuke Sato formally announces via social media that he is leaving Romanian club Sepsi OSK Sfântu Gheorghe.

The former Global FC star completed a move to the Covasna County-based club from Danish Superliga side AC Horsens in early 2018 where he amassed a total of 45 competitive appearances playing as a left-back.

He was a main contributor in Sepsi OSK’s successful run in avoiding relegation during the 2017-18 Liga I Play-out while helping the club in 2018-2019 qualify for the Liga I Championship Playoffs.

Initial unofficial reports of Sato’s departure from the club has circulated as early as June 12, 2019 stating that his affiliation with the club effectively comes to end by July 1.

As of this writing, it is not yet determined on where or which club the Azkals star will be heading next.

Photo credit: Sepsi OSK Facebook page

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Azkals midfielder Adam Reed joins Thai League 1 club Chainat Hornbill

Philippine Azkals midfielder Adam Reed gets acquired by Thai League 1 club, Chainat Hornbill, for the 2019 season.

The move means he becomes the second Filipino player in the club’s ranks along with Marco Casambre who was signed earlier.

The two players have formerly been with Davao Aguilas before the Filipino club pulled the plug on its professional team.

Information on this development first came out from Adam Reed himself through an Instagram story last morning of February 7, 2019 in the Thai province of Chai Nat [where the club is based], wearing the club’s training outfit.

A day later, February 8, Adam Reed’s acquisition has been finalized after completing a medical.

Adam Reed has been one of the main players of Davao Aguilas’ commendable performance during the 2018 PFL season when the club was almost able to win a silverware, only to come up short against Kaya FC Iloilo in the final of the inaugural Copa Paulino Alcantara.

The Filipino midfielder is a product of Sunderland AFC’s youth setup and has played on loan for renowned English clubs such as Portsmouth and Leyton Orient.

On the Philippine Azkals front, the versatile midfielder has been on legendary head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson’s rotation during the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 and the historic AFC Asian Cup 2019 campaigns, either as a starter or as a substitute.

Chainat Hornbill FC formally begins its 2019 Thai League 1 campaign on February 23, 2019 against Suphanburi FC which also has Filipino international Mark Hartmann in its squad.

Chainat Hornbill FC is already not new in hiring the services of Filipino footballers, as they already happened last 2018 when they signed forward Chima Uzoka who previously played for PFL clubs such as Ilocos United and Global Cebu.

Adam Reed’s addition makes it a total of ten Filipino players currently plying their trade in the Thai League 1.

Photo credit: Kieron Tan

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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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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