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.
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.
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.
Patrick Reichelt concluded his first season with Malaysia Super League club Melaka United last weekend with a successful individual performance with a double-figure haul of goals.
The 31-year-old Azkals winger’s move to neighboring Malaysia in late January after a significant and successful spell with Philippine domestic league champions Ceres-Negros proved to be a hit for the Malacca-based outfit as he scored a total of 10 goals in 22 matches for a rate of 0.45 goals per game.
The output produced in front of goal is enough for the Filipino international to be the leading scorer for his club and to be considered as one of the most effective forwards in the league putting him at fourth in the top scorers’ table.
Reichelt’s efforts proved to be crucial as well in helping his club finish in mid-table at sixth out of the 12-team competition in a tightly contested season that saw teams from third to sixth separated by no more than four points in the standings.
Another important footnote in this campaign is this is the first time that the pacy Akzal has played in every match without experiencing any health-related mishaps, something that the player has highlighted in his social media post.
Now that the league campaign has been wrapped up, Melaka United are now gearing for the 2019 edition of Malaysia Cup where they will vie for the trophy against 15 other clubs.
The draw for the 2019 Malaysia Cup matchups, and possibly the release of fixture dates, will be held on Tuesday (July 23).
Top Filipino football talents’ moves to Thai League 1 continue with Curt Dizon’s transfer to Chonburi FC from Ceres-Negros being the latest development.
The deal was completed and confirmed as of July 17 via official sources making Dizon the fifth player from the same Filipino club to make the jump to the Southeast Asian neighbor along with Kevin Ingreso, Alvaro Silva, and Martin Steuble.
With Chonburi, under manager Sasom Pobprasert, currently in mid-table at ninth place in the on-going League 1, the club will expect 25-year-old Dizon to provide the necessary impetus with the hopes of further improving their place in the table and avoid a possible relegation battle in what seems to be a tightly contested season.
Curt Dizon is a pacy forward-winger who operates on the left with Ceres and has the capability to either create chances for his teammates or score goals. His strengths lie mainly in his pace and dribbling ability – tools that could help him succeed in his new club.
Aside from a successful tenure with Ceres-Negros, where he helped the club win the 2018 domestic league, Curt also played for Philippine-based clubs Global FC and FC Meralco Manila.
Dizon also has been a regular mainstay in the Azkals squad amassing 16 competitive appearances for his country including the AFF Suzuki Cup and the historic 2019 AFC Asian Cup campaigns.
Dizon and Chonburi are scheduled to face up against Suphanburi which has fellow Azkals Alvaro Silva and Patrick Deyto on Saturday, July 20, at 9:00PM local time (10:00PM Philippine Standard Time).