Meet The Equally Tough Philippine Azkals
The Philippine Football on the rise...
(Updates: The Philippine Azkals trounced Mongolia 2-0 at the start of their 2 game home and away series at the jampacked Panaad Stadium, Bacolod City in the AFC Challenge Cup. The 1-2 combo of Jieffy Caligdong and Phil Younghusband provided the visiting Mongolians a tough time as both of them scored one goal a piece to pace the Azkals team of clinching a berth in the second round of the Cup where they are grouped with host Bangladesh, Palestine and Myanmar. The Philippine soccer team will meet Mongolia again on March 15, 2011, this time the game will be held at Ulan Bator. The Filipinos qualify in the next round if they either secure a win or a draw against the Mongolians. In case the Filipinos loses the game, the team with the greater points aggregate after 2 games will determine the winner of tie.) The Philippine national football team which is considered a minnow in the international competitions finally broke the juggernaut. The Philippine footballers which is also known as the Azkals (derived from the word “askal,” which is actually a breed of dog common to the country), flexed its muscle in the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup.
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they yielded to Indonesia twice by a similar score of 0-1, in the semifinal,
the Filipinos made history and still earned accolades and recognition worldwide. Why? The Azkals,
whose rank rose to 150th in December 2010, posted a stunning
reversal at the expense of defending champion Vietnam in a Group B action in
the quarterfinal round of the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup. The Philippine soccer team handed the Vietnamese side with a 2-0 shellacking, which propelled them into the semifinal meeting
with the Indonesians, which topped Group A. The team also secured draws against
Singapore and Myanmar earlier to finish the Group B with five points behind Vietnam which collected 6 points on the strength of its wins against Singapore and Myanmar.
Indonesia and Malaysia which placed first and second in Group A, Vietnam and the Philippines complete the semifinal cast of
the AFF Suzuki Cup. A win in the tournament is equivalent to three points, while 1 point is given for a draw and no point for a loss.
The Philippine team could have changed the outcome of their tie with the Indonesians if one of the games is played on its soil, no thanks to internal bickering back home. Still, the Azkals managed to earn various praises and recognitions worldwide, as their groundbreaking upset win over the highly favored Vietnam was voted as the 10th best by the Sports Illustrated, even besting several news made by high profile countries and various elite football clubs all over the world.
The Azkal's battle cry: "Never Say Die."
The Philippine team thrives on counterattacks to compensate for the not yet solid plays they have, since the team is still jelling and in the course of build up. The Azkals will be more formidable in the coming days as they are in stage of developing cohesion and fluidity, and still in the process of injecting creative and aggressive plays in their arsenal. The team’s defensive sentinels are also impressive and it shows with the close games they played against their various opponents thus far..
The team's other potent weapon is their heart and courage to win even in the dying minutes of the game. This is evident on their game against the Singaporeans and the Vietnamese where their "never say die," attitude, did wonders for the resilient and persistent Azkals.
The team can be likened to a mini United Nations as Filipinos with foreign blood worldwide are called to suit up for the country. The team boasts players such as brothers James and Phil Younghusband (both from United Kingdom, but now are unattached, James is a Midfielder while Phil plays the forward position and once played for Chelsea), Goal Keeper Neil Etheridge (Fulham, Scotland), Defenders Rob Gier (Ascot United, Scotland), Ray Jonnson (Grindavik, Iceland), Alexander Borromeo (Captain) and Midfielders Jason de Jong (Veendam, the Netherlands), Chieffy Caligdong and Chris Greatwitch (Morris Country Colonials, the United States), which forms the nucleus of the team. The team is under the watchful eyes of British coach Simon McMenemy.
What lies ahead?
With the strong showing of the Filipino soccer team in the recent tournament they took part, they are now setting their sights on bigger tournaments in 2011, as they are eyeing the South East Asian Games gold medal and hoping to perform well in the Asian qualifiers as they are pitted against Mongolia on February.
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