Kaya FC-Iloilo mustered a 1-1 draw against 10-man host PSM Makassar in their AFC Cup 2020 Group H match held in Gelora Bung Karno Madya Stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia last March 10, 2020.
The match started with Kaya presented with what seems a favorable opportunity to pounce on early in the match when the hosts went down to ten men in just the 11th minute as defender Dedy Gusmawan was slapped with a second yellow card.
Hover, the Filipino side wasn’t able to capitalize on their advantage in terms of manpower as they were not able to find the back of the net, rather PSM Makassar seemed to have used the situation as motivation as they found themselves with the breakthrough after 10 minutes when Osas Saha received a through ball that carved the middle of Kaya’s defense, converting the ensuing chance.
With the onus to equalize lying with Kaya FC, despite some half-chances that arrived, PSM Makassar were able to hold on to their lead until the end of the first half as both squads headed onto the break separated by Osas’ lone goal in favor of the hosts.
Four minutes into the second half, after a sustained spell of applied pressure, Kaya FC-Iloilo eventually produced the leveler as Eric Giganto connected with substitute Nano Amita’s well-placed cross for a looping header that gave the opposing keeper no chance.
Two minutes after the hour mark, Kaya should have gotten the lead with Giganto once again having a golden opportunity to unleash from close range but his effort went way over the bar.
In the 70th minute, PSM Makassar created an opportunity to get into the driver’s seat with Yakob Sayuri’s drive at pace narrowly missing the target as parity was maintained.
Nine minutes later, it was Takumi Uesato’s turn to put the visitor’s ahead as his shot off a delivery from Jayson Panhay was well saved by Hilman Syah as the decider has yet to arrive.
A few more promising chances arrived for both squads late in the game, but the winning goal came hard to come by as the match ended in a draw with the spoils shared.
The result puts Kaya FC-Iloilo at the top of Group H with five points while PSM Makassar settle in third. But their hold of the lead is only momentary depending on the result of the other match between Tampines Rovers and Shan United.
Hosts Kaya FC-Iloilo and Tampines Rovers failed to find the back of the net as both squads ended their clash goalless last February 26 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The Filipino side started much better with some half-chances early on while Tampines Rovers were still adjusting to the ebb and flow of the game.
As the clock approached the tenth minute, the Stags were able to assert themselves more as they started to conjure some attacking plays.
A minute before the first quarter of an hour, left midfielder Jordan Webb was able to break free of his marker but his attempt while at speed, at a tight angle can only fly over the bar.
Immediately the next minute, Kaya mounted a momentary siege of Tampines’ box but opportunities fleetingly came and went without getting the breakthrough.
In the 22nd minute a golden opportunity came for the Stags as the ball fell kindly on the path of Irwan Shah Arismail’s foot to unleash from close range but Kaya keeper Mike Casas was equal to it with a reflex save.
A few nervous moments arrived against Kaya FC as the Singaporeans peppered the hosts with some promising plays but the Filipino side were able to hold their fort and keep the stalemate.
In the 28th minute Jayson Panhay could have scored the opening goal for Kaya from a direct freekick but his well-curled effort flew agonizingly wide of the near post.
The game then proceeded with both teams trading possessions but neither was able to get a good look to score the icebreaker.
At the 42nd minute, Tampines had another half-decent chance with forward Boris Kopitovic unleashing a pile-driver in stride and at an angle, but his effort fizzed just over the bar.
Kopitovic’s attempt would be the last decent effort at goal as halftime arrived with the match goalless and finely in the balance.
Early in the second half, Tampines Rovers almost got ahead with Madhu Mohana’s strike inside the box deflected by a Kaya defender but Casas, once again, came up with a reflex save to deny the chance and maintain parity.
In the subsequent minutes after the hour mark, Kaya were able to control the match for the most part as they controlled the possession, but were not able to convert.
A late golden chance came for the Singaporean visitors with Webb releasing Kopitovic who duly produced a goal-bound effort but once again, Casas was the savior who kept the parity.
Tampines Rovers suddenly came alive in the final minutes as they knocked on Kaya’s door on several occasions. Meanwhile, Kaya had their few moments in injury time, but it wasn’t meant to be as the tie ended in a goalless draw.
Kaya FC-Iloilo will next visit Indonesian side PSM Makassar on March 10.
A heated encounter between Philippine champions Ceres-Negros FC and Vietnamese side Than Quang Ninh FC ended in a battling 2-2 draw in the AFC Cup 2020 Group G match held in Rizal Stadium last February 25.
In the early proceedings, the match exhibited a stop-start pace as both sides tried to weigh each other, exhibiting physicality, with some fouls committed on both ends.
But at the seventh minute, the hosts showed signs with regards to their capabilities on the attack, particularly on the wing play at the right flank with OJ Porteria and Robert Lopez Mendy almost connecting.
A good run of spell in possession followed for Ceres-Negros as they were able to dictate the proceedings in the moments that followed.
At the 14th minute, Than Quang Ninh had a decent chance though to score the breakthrough off a corner kick, but the headed attempt just flew wide of the near post as it remained a stalemate after the first quarter of an hour.
Despite the threat, the busmen were able to regain their bearings as they dictated once again the match with a promising chance arriving in the 24th minute as Stephan Schrock produced a teasing low pass across the opposition’s goalmouth only for the ball to marginally avoid the lurking forwards, Bienvenido Maranon and Lopez Mendy.
However that chance proved to be something that they would immediately rue as the Vietnamese side found themselves in front in the 26th minute after capitalizing on a defensive error with forward Jermie Lynch guiding the ball with such precision to find the back of the net.
Ceres immediately tried to respond with two consecutive chances from headers, but the equalizer proved elusive with half an hour gone.
Six minutes later, Manuel Ott tried a speculative effort, but his attempt to pull off something spectacular came to naught as the shot missed the target.
However a late first-half drama ensued. As the hosts desperately tried to claw their way and come up with an equalizing goal, Bienvenido Maranon was fouled inside the box promoting Malaysian referee Mohd Amirul Rizwan to point to the spot.
The aggrieved Maranon, duly took the penalty with such audacity, converting a chipped effort to put the tie well in the balance, as both sides head into the break sharing a goal each.
After the restart, both sides went off the blocks by employing high pressure on both ends, trying to catch the opposition on the counter.
Nine minutes into the second half, after a well-worked passing play, Bienve Maranon found himself in a position to unleash and put Ceres ahead, but his lobbed effort went over the bar.
A similar situation faced Robert Lopez Mendy a few moments after but also his attempt went sky high.
In the 61st minute, after an excellent play initiated by Porteria that found Maranon, the ball eventually found Manuel Ott without opposition but his shot hit the bar.
That miss will not be much of a concern for the busmen in the next minute though, as Porteria eventually gave his side the lead, firing low from an angle that beat Than Quang Ninh keeper, Huyn Tuan Linh to send the stadium into raptures.
With the onus now on the visiting side to come up with a leveller, the hero miners eventually got what they were searching for in the 70th minute after a mix-up inside Ceres-Negros’ box gave midfielder Nguyen Hai Huy enough window for an opportunistic strike that caught Ceres keeper Roland Muller stranded and hushing the Rizal Memorial crowd into stunned silence.
Six minutes later another and the Vietnamese side produced another scare for the Philippine champions as another shot from range unleashed just scraped outside Muller’s left post, escaping what could definitely be a complicated deficit.
As both clubs searched for the wining goal, eventually the tie ended in a draw as both sides split points in Group G.
Ceres-Negros will next face Indonesian champions Bali United on March 11 in Rizal Stadium in what could be considered as the busmen’s biggest test yet in the early phase of this year’s continental tournament.
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.
Follow the 5th Minute of Added time on Facebook and Twitter for more news and contents.
Kaya FC-Iloilo opened their AFC Cup 2020 campaign with an all-important 2-0 win against Burmese champions Shan United FC in an away fixture held at Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar last February 12.
Three minutes after kick-off, Kaya were presented with a chance, but team captain Jovin Bedic and Takumi Uesato were not able to capitalize on the opportunity.
In the fifth minute, Kaya goalkeeper Louie Casas went on the receiving end of a high boot from a Shan united forward, but only foul was called. Two minutes later, a set-piece, delivered by Jason Panhay, connected with Simone Rota, but the defender’s header just went narrowly wide of the far post.
For the most part of the early proceedings, Kaya’s men were able to show a bit more control of the match, while the hosts were more tentative with the possession afforded to them.
However, around 24 minutes into the match, Shan United started to come to life with some nifty plays. Two minutes later, Nanda Kyaw broke free beating the defense, but Mike Casas came up with a reflex save to deny the on-target attempt that may have been the breakthrough for the Burmese club.
In the 43rd minute, another instance raised the alarms against Kaya FC with Shan United producing another fine through ball pass, but defender Shirmar Felongco was able to to come up with a timely tackle to snuff out what could be a golden opportunity for the hosts.
Right before halftime, Kaya should have been up by a goal as a late freekick has been awarded, but what could have been a well-executed delivery from Panhay into the box found Rota who headed well, only to see the ball zip narrowly out of the near post as time expired with both teams goalless into the break.
Around five minutes after the restart, Shan United, showing a brighter start between the two sides, almost saw themselves with the lead but midfielder Yakubu Abubakar’s attempt after breaking free from Simone Rota’s defense was denied by the near post.
Minutes passed by with the match very much in the balance, as both squads saw some half-chances and opportunities, but were not able to notch the icebreaker.
In the 73rd minute a golden opportunity came in favor of the visitors when substitute substitute Arnel Amita was fouled inside Shan United’s box. Captain Jovin Bedic stepped up to take the ensuing spot kick who made no mistake to put his side in front in the next minute.
Immediately, Shan United poured their efforts chasing for an equalizer, but the Filipino side was able to weather the storm after a few nervous moments.
But five minutes before the 90th minute mark, Kaya FC suddenly provided what could have been the clincher as perennial super-sub Eric Giganto produced an unstoppable pile-driver off a feed from Arnel Amita to put the visitors two-goals up.
In the 90th minute, Louie Casas made a timely save to deny substitute Hein Phyo Win with what could have been a consolation goal for Shan United, as the match expired with Kaya FC Iloilo achieving a clean sheet to add to their two-goal haul to open their AFC Cup 2020 campaign with a massive away win in what seems to be a very tough group.
Kaya FC-Iloilo will next play in the AFC Cup as host to Singaporean side Tampines Rovers on February 26, 2020 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Ceres-Negros FC put up a convincing team performance en-route to a 4-0 win against Cambodian champions Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng FC in the AFC Cup 2020 group stage opener last February 11, at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Visitors Svay Rieng employed a high tempo from the get-go forcing Ceres-Negros to match the same intensity. The end-to-end dynamics provided Robert Lopez Mendy with an opportunity to test the opposing goalkeeper unleashing from distance in the fourth minute, only to miss the target.
In the eighth minute, Lopez Mendy once again was given a chance this time in a much better position to shoot inside the box but his attempt was so wayward.
Right in the 13th minute, Ceres-Negros finally got the breakthrough with Takashi Odawara’s low shot from the edge of the box finding the back of the net near the far post to put the hosts in front well within the first quarter of an hour.
A minute later and it was two goals up for the busmen as another goal was scored with Josh Grommen slotting in Stephan Schrock’s delivery to put the hosts at a much better situation.
Ceres-Negros were a bit on the upper-hand for the most part until the 22nd minute when a penalty was called against the hosts as Josh Grommen has been adjudged to have committed an infraction inside the box. However, Svay Rieng failed to capitalize from the spot as Ceres keeper Roland Muller produced a fine save to deny Thiago Dos Santos and maintain the two-goal difference.
Despite the bright start for the Filipino side, Cambodian champions Svay Rieng continued to be dangerous with their pacy approach to the game, especially on the counterattack.
But the early goals proved enough as the first half concluded with the busmen firmly in control heading into the break.
Ten minutes after the restart, Ceres-Negros once again found the back of the net for the third time after a slick linkup play found Spanish striker Bienvenido Maranon at an angle who was still able to squeeze the ball past goalkeeper Aim Sovannarath.
Around the hour mark and the moments after, Svay Rieng had some good spells on their own, but with the half-chances presented to them, coach Risto Vidakovic’s men were equal to those as the breakthrough was hard to come by for the visitors.
At the stroke of the 70th minute, Maranon once again found the back of the net after a well-worked effort from OJ Porteria to carve the opening and lay-off a pass for his teammate to convert and put the tie virtually out of reach for the visitors.
Ceres-Negros will next face Vietnamese club Thanh Quang Ninh at Rizal Memorial Stadium on February 25, at 7:30 PM.
It’s a battle between two undefeated clubs as Philippine double champions Ceres-Negros face Burmese counterparts Shan United in the AFC Champions League preliminary match on January 14.
Speaking during the prematch presser last Monday afternoon, January 13, coach Risto Vidakovic is anticipating a tricky and tough proposition ahead of their season opener.
“It’s going to be a very hard game, because it’s our first [match of the 2020 season]… I cannot say that we are ready 100%. We just had three training sessions. It’s the first game for us and nobody is [match] fit enough. But we have to forget all of the excuses. I’m not expecting from my players [as] it’s impossible to be prepared [in this situation]. But we want to win and I’m expecting everyone to give 100% on the game, that’s all I need [from them].
Meanwhile defender Sean Kane also expressed the same sentiments as his mentor given the match being their first for the year’s set of campaigns but the Ceres stalwart believes that they have a chance if they execute well and maximize the talents at hand.
“We know how coach wants us to play. I’d say that we just [need to] follow the plan and try to get the new players on-board as soon as possible. We take tomorrow and prepare as well as we can.”
Ceres- Negros strengthened their squad for the upcoming 2020 season with the addition of forward Mark Hartmann, midfielders Hikaru Minegishi and Arnie Pasinabo, and defender Joshua Grommen in their already talented team.
But visiting side Shan United will definitely be no walk in the park as they are bannered with local standouts Zin Min Tun and Dway Ko Ko Chit with reinforcements provided by their foreign contingent with Kyrgyz defender Daniel Tagoe, Ivorian midfielder Maximin, Senegalese midfielder Abubakar and highly rated Liberian forward Keith Nah.
“For this match, we haven’t made big preparations [as] our league started a few days ago, so we already played one match locally. One of our key defenders got injured in that match, but we will still try our best to get a good result tomorrow,” said Shan United FC head coach Aung Naing.
Meanwhile goalkeeper Thiha Sithu already is familiar with the hosts and knows the significance of the task at hand, yet is still optimistic of his team’s chances.
“We have played Ceres-Negros three or four times already so we now that they are a very good team. We will play with respect for our opponents and at then play with unity. Hopefully we get a good result tomorrow.”
What makes the matchup interesting is the fact that both teams are to face each other coming from their successful campaigns last season without suffering a single defeat in their respective leagues.
“We have a good level of confidence heading into this match based on last year’s [undefeated domestic league campaign], but this year will be different and Ceres is a very good team. Last year we lost against them [in the AFC Cup] both home and away, but this year we will try to win,” added coach Aung Naing.
Ceres-Negros of the Philippines host Shan United of Myanmar on Tuesday, January 13, at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. Kickoff is at 7:30PM. Admission is free while the match will be shown live on 5Plus while a delayed same day telecast will be broadcasted via One Sports at 10PM.
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.
Come October 23, 2019, the inaugural Mindanao Cup kicks off at Tionko Football Field in Davao City to serve as the primary vehicle for talent discovery in the region in-line with its other on-going grassroots initiatives.
The tournament, which will adhere to the nine-a-side format, will feature 16 participating teams from various football associations in Mindanao, and will run until October 25.
Organized by the Davao South Regional Football Association (DSRFA) and the Negros Occidental Football Association (NOFA), the Mindanao Cup is a spin-off of the annual NOFA Invitational Cup in Bacolod City, which success since its 2016 launch has resulted for it to be a recurring age-group tournament.
NOFA President Ricky Yanson, who has been involved with grassroots development for years in Negros Occidental, emphasized that the objective of the Mindanao Cup, which will be a tournament for boys 11 years old and below, is to find promising players with the potential to represent the national squad in the future.
“Our goal is to develop young Filipino talents who can hopefully play for our national team in the future,’’ said Ricky Yanson, who partnered with DSRFA President Engr. Henry Sabate in staging the event.
“We already had four editions of the NOFA Cup. We noticed that only a few teams from Mindanao came over to join, so we’ve decided to organize a tournament that will cater to the young players in the region,’’ added the NOFA president.
While the NOFA Cup gathers select competitive teams from all over the Philippines, the Mindanao Cup brings together squads from the FAs within the region. Mr. Yanson emphasized during a recent meeting with the 17 Mindanao-based FAs that the chief objective is to discover and hone future national team players.
“This is a great opportunity for players in Mindanao to develop their skills and play against the best from the other provinces.”
The participating teams are the following:
Agusan del Sur FA
Central Butuan District 1 Football Team of Butuan-Agusan del Norte FA
CdeO – Little Me Academy FC of Cagayan de Oro-Misamis Oriental FA
Camp Kalaw Football Club of Golden Davao RFA
Davao Lola Mommy’s (White) and Davao Lola Mommy’s (Red) of Davao RFA
Iligan City Football Academy of Iligan-Lanao del Norte-Lanao del Sur RFA
MRFA Sultan Jolongs FC of Maguindanao RFA
SOCSARGEN RFA of South Cotabato – Sarangani – General Santos RFA
Team MARFA of Mount Apo RFA
SWAT FC of Sultan Kudarat FA
Surigao United of Surigao del Norte and Dinagat Islands RFA
ZANDIFA – Dipolog of Zamboanga del Norte – Dipolog FA
Sta. Lucia Jumbos of Zamboanga del Sur – Pagadian FA
The Mindanao Cup is part of Ricky Yanson’s continuing commitment to develop young Filipino football players and to demonstrate his belief in local talent.
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.