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Azkals’ Iain Ramsay officially unveiled by Sukhothai FC

The Philippine Azkals’ winger Iain Ramsay has been formally announced by Sukhothai last January 21 as one of their latest additions ahead of the 2019 Thai League 1 season.

After suiting up for the Philippine squad in its AFC Asian Cup debut as one of the key substitutes under Sven-Goran Eriksson, Ramsay headed to Thailand for the announcement of his acquisition.

Before joining Sukhothai FC, Iain Ramsay played for Felda United in the Malaysian Premier League where he was able to help the Pahang-based club win the title and get automatic promotion to the top-flight, the Malaysian Super League.

Operating lately as an advanced left-winger with a primary role as a provider, Ramsay is likely to be expected initially to do the same for his new club by knocking in dangerous crosses for his team’s strikers to work on. But, it is also of note that the Filipino is a capable goalscorer if an opportunity arises.

Ramsay will play under manager Ljubomir Ristovski as the club aims for a much better showing in 2019 after concluding the previous season in the lower half of the standings at 11th place out of the 18-team league.

Thai League 1 commence its 2019 season on February 22.

Photo credit: Sukhothai FC Facebook Page

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Patrick Reichelt: Azkals wingman who leads the line

Through the years, Patrick Reichelt has been one of the Philippine Azkals who have consistently exemplified a very good balance of industry and ability.

Time and time again, he he has proven that he is capable of serving one quality performance after another reminding everyone of his immensity for the Philippine squad.

Source: Patrick Reichelt Facebook page

Probably the only thing that hampered him from contributing more for the Azkals, whether through goals or assists was his lengthy bout with an ACL injury he suffered back in 2016 that deprived him a sustained series of call-ups to the squad.

But for Ceres-Negros, a club where he was able to earn his longest tenure – even in the midst of his lengthy recuperation from the mentioned injury – he was able to be one of the club’s main heroes along with the likes of Manuel Ott, Stephan Schrock and Bienvenido Maranon.

Once he recovered back to fitness in 2017, he was able to earn back his place in the busmen’s lineup. His ability to regain his full array of talents eventually made him ease his way for a return to the Azkals come 2018 as a winger with the license to probe further forward as a support striker.

An attacking type of player, Patrick Reichelt can operate as a forward or a winger from either flank, with the right part of the pitch being his usual assigned area as of late.

His pace, dribbling, and the ability to pull off a perfectly weighted cross or through ball towards his strike partners to pounce upon are his staple offerings that make him an indispensable part of the Azkals’ offensive line.

But one of the more underrated aspects of his game is his ability to finish from up close with his composure and the presence of mind and coolness to opt for “passing” towards the net rather than pulling off a “blaster” if presented a situation when the goal is at his mercy.

His latest great moments did arrive in the recently concluded AFF Suzuki Cup where he was able to come up with two goals in the campaign [against Singapore and Vietnam] that made him the only Azkal to pull off the feat and be the team’s tournament top scorer in effect.

During the losing effort in the semifinal first leg against eventual Suzuki Cup winners Vietnam, Patrick Reichelt showed his disappointment – despite scoring a goal – as the Azkals were not able to capitalise at home which showed how much the tournament meant for him.


True enough, the Azkals were duly eliminated in the away leg in Hanoi with the odds already heavily stacked against them against a quality side with a partisan crowd in favour of their rivals.

But as the Philippines are about to embark on their biggest tournament yet, with a complete lineup available for the whole tournament, the true capabilities of the squad is about to be tested fair and square.

Underdogs the Azkals maybe heading into the Asian Cup 2019, but one player in their ranks who could definitely rise up to the occasion as one of the leaders up front is their mercurial hitman lurking in the right flank, Patrick Reichelt.

Stephan Schrock Philippine Azkals AFC Cup 2019

Asian Cup 2019: Making the impossible, possible – The Azkals’ Stephan Schrock

Come the Philippine Azkals’ most daunting “To dream the impossible” campaign – the 2019 Asian Cup – one man could most probably light it up if ever the team struggle for chances. That player is none other than Stephan Schrock.

Currently, the Ceres-Negros star can be considered as one of the best and most talented footballers in the country. He developed and honed is football abilities in Germany, playing for clubs such as SpVgg Greuther Furth, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, and Eintracht Frankfurt before playing for his present club from the time when they were still known as Ceres-LaSalle in the now defunct United Football League.

A player with immense dribbling ability, awareness, versatility, and a powerful strike, these attributes make Stephan Schrock a threat on the offensive end whether it’s through scoring goals or creating spaces and scoring chances for his team.

Playing usually as a midfielder at either flank lately for the Philippines, he also is effective in the central area or as a more advanced attacking midfielder.

In a match, he has a license in certain moments to act as a ‘free radical’ who can roam across the surface to probe for possible attacking spaces, especially when the team have their backs to the wall and are chasing the game.

Such a ‘special’ situational role makes Stephan Schrock score spectacular goals or assists for his squad – both club and [especially] the Azkals – as he is able to carve out chances or unleash a shot at goal in the most unexpected situations and unthinkable spaces on the pitch.

To emphasise more on this here are a few of his goals that highlight such qualities and contributions to the team.

Consolation goal vs Uzbekistan – 2018 World Cup Qualifiers [2nd Round];  September 8, 2015

With the Philippines already down and out with a five goal deficit, Stephan Schrock provided a spectacular consolation for the Filipino home fans to cheer for and deny Uzbekistan’s goalkeeper Aleksandr Lobanov a clean sheet.

The “SCHROCKet” vs Kuwait – 2014 World Cup Qualifiers [2nd Round]; July 28, 2011

The Philippines were chasing the tie after the previous leg in Kuwait ended in a 3-0 loss. Stephan Schrock produced a ray of hope in added time of the first half, but progression wasn’t meant to be for the Azkals the end as Kuwait scored two unanswered goals to get an aggregate win of 5-2.

Crunch time winner vs Kaya FC – PFL Semifinal 1st leg; December 3, 2017

With time expiring in the first leg of the inaugural season of the Philippines Football League, Stephan Schrock produced a solo effort in injury time to give Ceres-Negros a precious away goal in a campaign the Busmen eventually were able to finish triumphantly to become the first domestic league champions.

The ‘impossible’ goal vs Ilocos United – PFL; September 30, 2017

Running down the right wing, whether it was supposed to be a cross or an intentional audacious strike, Stephan Schrock produced a spectacular goal from an almost impossible angle as he was able to beat the keeper for something special to remember for fans of Philippine football.

Other amazing highlights: Goals and assists for Azkals and Greuther Furth

Here are a few additional highlights – including his ability to create for his teammates.

Conclusion

As the Philippine Azkals begin their continental campaign, keep a close eye on Stephan Schrock. He might just pull off another rabbit out of a hat when the national squad get in a tough predicament in the course of a match as they set out in dreaming the impossible.

Photo credits: AFF Suzuki Cup, Ceres Negros FC

Philippine Azkals to dream the impossible AFC Asian Cup 2019

Can’t help it, but the Philippines’ Asian Cup 2019 slogan is just ‘classic’ in an epic way

When the organisers released the team slogans for each participating country in the AFC Asian Cup, to be honest, the first impression for this writer when it came to the Philippine Azkals’ slogan was… cheesy.

Unless one has been living under a rock, one cannot miss out the most probable ‘inspiration’ from which the slogan was taken from – the Broadway musical Man of La Mancha song which was popularised (and immortalised) by Frank Sinatra and Matt Monro back in 1966/67.

To those who are very much into karaoke and belting out some standard oldies songs, this piece titled The Impossible Dream (The Quest), is a staple of such past-time which was probably the main reason that lends to the slogan’s cheesiness.

Anyway, back to the topic, after some time, it seemed that the slogan already grew for this writer with the cheesiness wearing off. And with the aid of listening and looking at the lyrics of the tune that most probably inspired “To dream the impossible”, the content really reflects the situation that the Azkals are in ahead of the most challenging campaign of their lives.

Without further delay, here is the Frank Sinatra version of the song in all its classic glory with lyrics to check out:

Here’s another version from English singer Matt Monro:

After listening to these renditions, it really is not hard to consider this as one of the unofficial theme songs of the Philippine national football team in their quest to get achieve the impossible.

Well, there’s also a more recent slogan from a famous sporting equipment manufacturer that impossible is nothing. That could further inspire the Azkals to pull off some surprising upsets.

Here’s to hoping that the impossible dream becomes a possibility. Also, maybe (just maybe), head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson is also singing this particular tune at the back of his head after seeing that slogan emblazoned on the team bus.

This is OUR quest…

Photo credit: The Philippine Football Federation, AC Asian Cup Twitter account, Wikipedia

Possible Azkals line-up in the AFC Asian Cup

As the Philippine Azkals finalise their AFC Asian Cup preparations with a friendly match against Southeast Asian champions Vietnam on New Year’s Eve, let’s look how Sven-Goran Eriksson will possibly setup the team in the opening campaign.

The probable lineup: 4-4-2 [on paper]

The 11-man squad that could step onto the pitch above will be comprised of possibly the most experienced and promising bunch that shone in the previous AFF Suzuki Cup campaign.

One of the only two exceptions that could get the nod to start is Luke Woodland who, unfortunately, had his recent AFF participation cut short within the early minutes of the opening fixture, due to a minor leg injury that required a few weeks of recovery that deemed him unavailable for the rest of the campaign.

Why the Buriram United defender would most likely make the Azkals Starting XI though is his youth [at 23-years-old] that would be essential as a right-back in order to negate the possible threats from pacy opposing wingers.

The other player absent in the previously concluded regional tournament was Javier Patino who suffered a calf injury during the buildup camp to the Suzuki Cup.

Patino’s presence would add another dimension to the Azkals frontline due to his attributes that are not just focused on goalscoring, but his ability to draw defences and open up opportunities, through his close-quarter passing and vision, to his strike partners up front.

The possible ‘actual’ formation

If the lineup on paper will be fielded in the actual AFC Asian Cup, the most possible formation of the players once on the pitch could resemble more of a 4-1-3-2.

Javier Patino and Phil Younghusband will be up front with the former as the main focus of the attack.

Patrick Reichelt will shadow the the two forwards as an auxiliary striker operating from the right wing while Manny Ott will pull the strings as the fulcrum of the offence being the main playmaker.

Stephan Schrock, meanwhile, will be the spark from the left side of the pitch with a license to roam within his domain as an initiator as well beside Manny Ott while young John-Patrick Strauss at 22-years-old will be the defensive anchor at the middle of the park.

On defence, Alvaro Silva and Carli De Murga will partner each other as centre-backs.

Luke Woodland will take the right-back position while Daisuke Sato will be on the left with the two providing support in marauding their respective flanks in attacking situations.

Michael Falkesgaard of Bangkok United will be the starting goalkeeper.

Formation Variation: 4-3-3

With the same lineup, depending on the situation, the lineup could transform into a formation that resembles a 4-3-3 with Strauss retaining a regressed defensive midfielder role while Reichelt taking a more advanced position as a forward.

Substitutes

Possible roles that the substitutes can take are below:

From the starters, Woodland and De Murga could have their roles interchanged depending on who will be subbed out.

Iain Ramsay will most likely be a left wing specialist whether as a starter [which is highly possible too] or as a super-sub who will provide the needed service from the left flank and into the box for the forwards to work with.

Adam Tull has the versatility to take defensive and midfield roles while Jovin Bedic, Curt Dizon, and Mike Ott could substitute for different attacking roles.

Meanwhile, James Younghusband could either be deployed as a midfielder or a forward given his size that can open up defences.

AC Horsens’ Kevin Ray Hansen and Kaya FC’s Nathanael Ace Villanueva will provide the option as backup goalkeepers.

Conclusion

In closing, this discussion is all just speculative and for fun in anticipation of the actual Azkals campaign.

But one thing that can be observed from this selection by head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson and the rest of the coaching team is that the squad is a promising one that is capable of pulling off surprises, taking into consideration the availability and fitness of the players.

Here’s to hoping that the Azkals could come up with a commendable performance, and run of results in the biggest tournament of their lives.

Photo credit: The Azkals Instagram page

Azkals-23 and their possible preferred boots for the AFC Asian Cup 2019

The Azkals 23-man squad list for the AFC Asian Cup 2019 has just been recently released by the Philippine Football Federation with some notable absences and surprise, yet welcome, inclusions.

With several discussions already hovering around regarding the selection itself, we focus on the 23 men on the list, but this will not just be about any usual topic – we focus on their preferred brand of boots and the most probable models (provided there won’t be changes in their sponsorship or switches in their preferences as of this writing) that they will consider as their main boots of choice during the course of the continental tournament.

Note: This is not an endorsement of any sorts, but just a fun feature as service to the fans and football enthusiasts who are into cleats and equipment.

Michael Falkesgaard – Role: Goalkeeper; Club: Bangkok United [Thailand]

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The main keeper of Thai League 1’s Bangkok United will most definitely be the first choice of Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson to man between the posts for the Filipinos’ biggest campaign yet in their history as a national team.

A very capable keeper in place of Neil Etheridge’s absence due to club commitments,  the Azkals will need Michael Falkesgaard’s safe hands to keep the rivals’ attempts at bay.

Michael’s recent equipment – Boots: Adidas; Model: X 18.1; Gloves: Select

Kevin Ray Mendoza Hansen – Role: Goalkeeper; Club: AC Horsens [Denmark]

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Kevin Ray Hansen will be the newest player to receive a call-up for the Azkals for major competition. The shot-stopper currently plays in the Danish Superliga for AC Horsens where he was able to currently amass five appearances in the current season.

The 24-year-old may have a strong resume being a regular in a European topflight to earn him a call-up, but he has a lot to prove once he’s given the opportunity to step onto the pitch. Here’s hoping that he pulls out a stellar debut.

Kevin Ray’s recent equipment – Boots: Nike; Model: Vapor 360 Elite ; Gloves: Uhlsport

Nathanael Ace Villanueva – Role: Goalkeeper; Club: Kaya FC Iloilo

Ace Villanueva boots

A stellar performance as a starting sentry during Kaya FC’s triumphant domestic league cup campaign, Ace Villanueva finally earned his call-up to the Azkals ahead of the Asian Cup 2019 tournament.

His role will most probably be as one of the goalkeeping options off the bench, but the fact that he has been considered to be in the squad is a testament to his club achievements and ever increasing reputation as a reliable stopper.

Ace’s possible equipment – Boots: Adidas Predator 18.1; Gloves: Adidas Predator Pro

Carli De Murga – Role: Defender; Club: Ceres-Negros FC

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A versatile defender whether as a centre-back or right-back, De Murga has been one a regular starter whether for club or country.

At club level he has helped Ceres Negros win their back-to-back championship in the recently concluded domestic league while contributing to the Busmen’s run to the zonal final in the 2018 AFC Cup.

He will most probably be one of the key players at the back for the Azkals in the Asian Cup.

Carli’s boots: Nike Tiempo Legend VII Elite

Paul Mulders – Role: Defender; Club: Ceres-Negros FC

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At 37-years-old, Paul Mulders is the kuya of this squad. But his experience and quality will definitely be a big contribution to the team if there comes a situation that Coach Sven will call him into the lineup either as a starter or a substitute.

Originally an attacking midfielder during his playing years in the Netherlands, Paul Mulders possesses the versatility to take on other positions and for the AFC Asian Cup, he is assigned a defensive role.

Despite his advanced age, in relation to footballers’ career years, Mulders still seems to be in great shape and he could surely provide that brilliance in bursts during the course of a match.

Paul Mulders’ recent boots on-pitch: Nike Mercurial Vapor IX, Nike Mercurial Vapor XI

Stephan Palla – Role: Defender; Club: Buriram United [Thailand]

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Stephan Palla, currently of Buriram United, adds to the defensive quality of the Azkals given his experience in the Austrian footballing system.

Playing mainly as a left-back, he is set to compete for position with Daisuke Sato. But Palla could also complement with him given that the Sepsi OSK stalwart can play further up front as a left midfielder.

Whatever the case, Stephan Palla will definitely have his plate full facing up against Asia’s best if he gets head coach Eriksson’s nod to step onto the pitch.

Stephan Palla’s recent preferred boots: Nike Mercurial Vapor XII Elite

Alvaro Silva – Role: Defender ; Club: Kedah FC [Malaysia]

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One of the more experienced players in the Azkals’ squad in terms of club experience, 34-year-old centre-back Alvaro Silva’s debut in the AFF Suzuki Cup against Thailand have shown his wealth of experience providing the solidity and calmness at the backline that helped the Philippines survive the group stage.

This time, he will once again play a big role in the defensive end as the Azkals hope to come out with a commendable performance in the continental stage.

Alvaro’s choice of boots: Nike; Model: Hypervenom

Daisuke Sato – Role: Defender; Club – Sepsi OSK Sfantu Gheorghe [Romania]

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One of the two outfield players of the Azkals who are based in Europe, Daisuke Sato’s tenacity has been one of his strengths.

A natural left-back who will not hesitate to take on a new challenge to take on a new role if required by his coach (as evidenced by his switch as a left midfielder against Thailand in the AFF Suzuki Cup group stage match), Sato will be one of the players to watch as one of the conduits from defence to attack.

Daisuke Sato’s equipment of choice: Adidas; Models: X18.1 Spectral Mode, X17 + Purespeed

Adam Tull – Role: Defender; Club: [formerly] Davao Aguilas FC

Adam Tull boots

One of Davao Aguilas’ stalwarts in defence during the recently concluded domestic league that saw the club come up with a much improved campaign in what turned out to be their final season as a professional club, Adam Tull will once again be in the thick of things in defence for the Azkals if given the nod to start or step onto the pitch.

Adam Tull’s cleats: Adidas, Model: X18.1

Luke Woodland – Role: Defender; Club – Buriram United [Thailand]

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The versatile defender who can play multiple positions (centre-back, defensive midfielder) despite being primarily a right-back suffered an injury in the early part of the match against Singapore that prematurely ended his participation in the AFF Suzuki Cup.

But he can put an end to that disappointing stint as he gets another shot this time in the bigger AFC Asian Cup, where he can really show and shine for the Azkals in the continental showdown. The 23-year-old will definitely one to look out for as the Philippines aim to get a good run of results in their tournament debut.

Wearing Nike in recent past, it seems Luke Woodland is now rocking the three stripes on the pitch as shown in a preseason fixture with Buriram United.

Luke Woodland’s boots: Adidas Model: X18.1

Kevin Ingreso – Role: Midfielder; Club: Ceres-Negros FC

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Kevin Ingreso technically was the man who booked the Azkals to the Asian Cup after redeeming himself from a defensive error and scoring the equaliser against Tajikistan in the final qualifying match before Phil Younghusband erased the doubts by scoring the winner via penalty.

Whether as a starter or from the bench, Kevin will be tasked to be one of the creators from the middle of the park with his vision, playmaking and ability to score in lean situations.

Kevin Ingreso’s boots: Nike, Models: Mercurial Vapor XI, Mercurial Vapor IX

Manuel “Manny” Ott – Role: Midfielder; Club: Ceres-Negros FC

Manny Ott cleats

A playmaker for Ceres-Negros FC, Manny Ott is one of the crucial pieces of the Azkals in this AFC Asian Cup campaign.

His fitness due to a minor foot injury might have hampered him in the semifinal of the recently concluded Suzuki Cup, but with him hopefully fully fit for the Asian Cup, his ability to create scoring chances – even score himself – will be essential to the Azkals’ chances to come up with a surprising run.

Manny Ott’s boots: Luxury Nike Mercurial Superfly V

Mike Ott – Role: Midfielder, Club: Ceres-Negros FC

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Whether as a winger or support striker, Mike Ott’s ability to score is undeniable and he definitely is an asset for the Azkals this campaign in the United Arab Emirates.

A purposeful attacker who can deceive defences, he can be an ever-present threat in favour of the Philippines.

Mike Ott’s possible boots: Nike Phantom Vision Elite, Adidas adizero F50

Stephan Schrock – Role: Midfielder, Club: Ceres-Negros FC

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Definitely one of the undisputed stars of this Philippine Azkals team, Stephan Schrock has the experience and the ability to change the course of the match through his influence and moment of inspiration from either side of the midfield.

He can carve out defences by himself with his dribbling ability but from a team standpoint, his ability to pick out his teammates up front with precise and well-weighted passes always are things that his team’s strikers will be thankful to work with. Also it should be mentioned his penchant to pull-off something spectacular when the the Azkals are struggling to find a groove in the offensive end.

Along with Stephan Schrock’s undeniable qualities, it is to note that he has possibly the most array of footballing boots in this bunch of players. He’s Nike through and through but his cleats are quite a number.

Stephan Schrock’s array of armaments by Nike: Mercurial Vapor XII Elite, Tiempo Legend III, Vapor XI Puro Fenomeno, Phantom Vision Elite [and possibly more!]

John-Patrick Strauss – Role: Midfielder, Club: Erzgebirge Aue [Germany]

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Defensive midfielder, John-Patrick Strauss, who currently plays in the 2. Bundesliga with Erzgebirge Aue has been a revelation for the Azkals during the recently concluded 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup.

Only 22-years-old, he still has a lot of mileage left in him and it showed as he was able to show pace, stamina and impetus from deep in the middle of the pitch towards initiating attacking plays. However, just as when the Suzuki Cup got serious, his stint came to an end as he was recalled for club duty that made him miss out the semifinal clash against Vietnam.

This time, though, he will be available for the Azkals for the Asian Cup and it’s highly probable that he will feature as a starter for Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.

John-Patrick Strauss’ go-to cleats: Nike Mercurial Superfly 360 Elite

Miguel Javier Tanton – Role: Midfielder, Club: Ceres-Negros FC

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Miguel Tanton finally gets a deserved call-up for an entire tournament after earning only one appearance for the Azkals last 2016 in a World Cup qualifier match against North Korea.

Despite that commendable performance, where he was able to provide an audacious back-heel assist for the equaliser, it’s hard to believe that he wasn’t able to feature more for the national team after that.

A tenacious player whose grafting and no-nonsense demeanour mostly overcasts the flair, playmaking and creativity that he possesses as a midfielder, it is high time that Miguel Tanton gets his call-up in the biggest tournament that the Azkals are going to participate in.

Miguel Tanton’s cleats: Nike Mercurial Vapor

James Younghusband – Role: Midfielder, Club: Davao Aguilas FC

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The only other centurion [player who amassed at least 100 appearances] for the Azkals, James Younghusband is one of the most experienced players in the squad.

A versatile midfielder who can be tenacious in a testy affair, at the same time, an effective contributor at both ends of the pitch James’ ability to influence a match just by his presence and the way he draws the opposing defence to himself opens up attacking chances for his teammates.

His greatest strength in the offensive end is his ability to score as a target man during set-pieces.

James’ most recent on-pitch cleats: Adidas; Models: X18.1 and Ace 16.1

Jovin Bedic – Role: Forward, Club: Kaya FC Iloilo

PHL-THA AFF SUZUKI CUP 2018

Jovin Bedic definitely is at the highest point at the moment of his career. One of the only two homegrown talents in the current Azkals lineup [along with Ace Villanueva who also is from Kaya], his goalscoring ability has been proven in the international stage when he scored the equaliser against Thailand in the AFF Suzuki Cup.

But even before that, he also scored the only goal for Kaya during the final of the domestic league cup that booked his club a place in the 2019 AFC Cup.

Now, in the AFC Asian Cup, Jovin Bedic could once again have the opportunity to keep this run of scoring big goals at the right moment as he represents his hometown province of Iloilo at the continental stage in football.

Jovin Bedic’s most recent choice of on-pitch cleats: Nike Mercurial Vapor XII Elite ‘Meu Jogo’, Nike Mercurial Vapor XII 360 Elite

Curt Dizon – Role: Forward, Club: Ceres-Negros FC

Curt Dizon boots

Curt Dizon is one of the most promising strikers for the Azkals. His goalscoring exploits have already been shown during his tenure with Global Cebu FC and, more recently, with Ceres Negros.

Although he might come off as a substitute just as his role in the recent Suzuki Cup campaign, what he can offer to the Azkals’ frontline can still come in handy.

Good with the ball at his feet, and with the ability to pounce on the opportunity to score goals, Curt Dizon is definitely a plus to have up front.

Curt Dizon’s boots: Nike Hypervenom Phantom 3

Javier Patino – Role: Forward; Club: Buriram United [Thailand]

Patino blog boots

Javier Patino, barring injuries, arguably is the best offensive weapon that the Philippine Azkals have.

It’s not just through his goalscoring that makes him a danger man but also his ability to execute quick decisions and pick his teammates up front to lay off the ball for a better scoring opportunity is what makes him a truly effective forward.

As a striker, he possesses a certain cunning and cool finishing that makes him a highly rated competitor.

Javier Patino’s most recent cleats on the pitch: Adidas Copa 18.1

Iain Ramsay – Role: Forward, Club: Sukhothai FC [Thailand]

Ramsay boots

One of the Azkals’ best wingers, Ramsay’s pace and ability to pick-out strikers through his crosses makes him one of the main providers of chances.

Before his move to Sukhothai, he played for Felda United where he helped the club gain promotion to Malaysia’s top-flight by winning the Malaysian Premier League.

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Expect that steady supply of threatening balls from him at the left flank, and if chances are lean, Iain can make himself available to create a chance for himself by taking the opportunity and unleashing a shot at goal.

Iain’s recent cleats: Nike Mercurial Vapor XII 360 Elite

Patrick Reichelt – Role: Forward, Club: Ceres-Negros FC

PHILIPPINES-VIETNAM  AFF SUZUKI CUP 2018 Semifinals

Patrick Reichelt is the most in-form striker at the moment, his two goals in the AFF Suzuki Cup are the evidences. In a campaign where chances were few, only Reichelt was able to score two goals for the Philippines.

Here’s hoping that the Ceres-Negros forward could bring and keep up the same level of scoring form in the AFC Asian Cup.

A mercurial forward who operates from the right flank, Patrick Reichelt’s ability to bring the ball into the opposition’s box and either unleash a shot or provide a killer pass for one of his strike partners will be his main arsenals in this continental campaign.

Patrick Reichelt’s weapon of choice: Nike Mercurial Vapor XII Elite

Phil Younghusband – Role: Forward, Club: Davao Aguilas FC

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The Philippines’ other centurion, and the one with the most number of competitive appearances with 105 and the most number of goals ever for his country with 52, Phil is stepping into the AFC Asian Cup as the Philippine Azkals’ living legend.

Having a remarkable career for the national team, the 31-year-old striker will definitely have all the motivation to further his achievements by probably reaching another milestone while helping his team get to greater heights.

So what’s does Phil Younghusband have on his feet in the Asian Cup? Well he’s had quite a significant time when it comes to his partnership with Adidas [even past models – whether original release or reissues], so he’ll be wearing them and, hopefully, score goals with the three stripes.

Phil’s most recent cleats: Adidas X 18.1 Energy Mode, Adidas Predator Lethal Zones 2 [2013 model]

That’s it! Those are the most recent cleats of the Azkals who will go to the United Arab Emirates to compete in the Asian Cup 2019.

Do you fancy some of their cleats?

Photo credits: AFF Suzuki Cup, The Azkals, Buriram United Facebook Page, Kaya FC Iloilo Facebook page, Adam Tull Instagram page, Kevin Ray Mendoza Instagram page

A glaring omission in a promising bunch as Coach Eriksson and PFF release The Azkals 23-man AFC Asian Cup 2019 squad

The Philippine Azkals confirm their final list of players who will make up the squad for the upcoming AFC Asian Cup 2019 tournament.

Just this evening [December 27, 2018], the Philippine Football Federation released the final list of players who are called up for Asia’s continental football showdown.

Upon initial glance, it wouldn’t be hard to notice that Neil Etheridge is not part of the team.

But, with that noticeable absence, there are also some surprise inclusions that can be considered as overdue due to the glowing reputations they have built throughout their playing careers.

Let’s briefly look into the squad:

1. Neil Etheridge’s absence a blow, but probably the better option

It is to note that initially, Cardiff City FC’s main keeper and the player with the highest profile in the Azkals, being their sole representative in the prestigious English Premier League, would only to suit up for the national team in the opening fixture against South Korea on January 7, 2019.

But, in the end (and due to several possible reasons that can only be speculated), it might have been considered the best and most rational approach for both parties that Neil Etheridge should forego the tournament and concentrate on his club duties.

The situation in Cardiff City FC should also be taken into consideration in the bigger picture as the club is currently in the thick of things when it comes to a relegation battle, and Neil Etheridge is definitely a crucial piece in the club’s plans to evade the possible drop.

Yes, it might be a major letdown that the biggest name in the Philippines’ list of footballing talents is about to miss out on the biggest occasion that the national team is about to participate in. But the proposition and dilemma surely are things that Neil is most probably also unhappy to face given the magnitude of the tournament, especially for the country, as shown in his emotional reaction when he was able to help The Azkals seal qualification in the Asian Cup last March 27, 2018.

Filipino football fans also were mixed in their reactions with the decision of the team, showing that the situation really was a tough call no matter how one looks at it.

2. Surprise, yet promising, inclusions

This squad have a couple of players who can be considered as surprising additions given the timing of their inclusions and the magnitude of the tournament at hand, but very promising ones given their stellar track records in their respective careers in Philippine football – midfielder Miguel Tanton and goalkeeper Nathanael Ace Villanueva.

Miguel Tanton has been a long-time servant for Kaya FC even during the United Football League (UFL) years, before his recently concluded transfer to Ceres Negros for the coming season.

Considered as a creative, yet battling midfielder, Miguel’s ability to dictate the middle of the park with a good balance of brilliance and tenacity can be a plus to any team that he is bound to play for.

His only call-up with the Azkals last March 29, 2016 in a FIFA World Cup qualifier match was etched in memory when he provided the back-heel assist for Manny Ott’s 84th minute equaliser against North Korea that ended in a monumental 3-2 win.

Such have shown his quality as a midfielder and what he can offer to the team if head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson gives him the opportunity to step onto the pitch.

Meanwhile, Ace Villanueva, who plays as Kaya FC Iloilo’s main goalkeeper the past season, has been one of the best homegrown players in this country. A product of University of the Philippines, Ace worked his way up the ranks and has had stints with several local clubs such as Pachanga Diliman, and Loyola FC (which eventually became FC Meralco Manila) where he was able to stamp himself as a quality stopper.

And now along with forward, Jovin Bedic, Ace serves as Kaya’s second representative for the Azkals in the AFC Asian Cup 2019 campaign as a one of the goalkeeping options.

3. Who is Kevin Ray Hansen?

Kevin Ray Mendoza Hansen, for the first time, will be part of the Azkals in this AFC Asian Cup 2019 campaign which is a big challenge given the magnitude of the tournament – the biggest in the national team’s participation in international football competitions.

24-year-old Kevin Ray Mendoza plays as a goalkeeper for Danish Superliga club AC Horsens. In the current Superliga season, where his club is currently eighth in the standings out of 14 teams, Kevin Ray featured in a total of five matches. Out of these fixtures, he faced a total of 32 shots with 14 conceded goals and 18 attempts saved for a success rate of 56.3%

His experience in the Danish top flight will come in handy as a possible goalkeeping option along with Ace Villanueva of Kaya FC Iloilo, behind the most probable first choice keeper, Michael Falkesgaard of Bangkok United.

Photo credit: Philippine Football Federation