Raphael Phoebus M. Ubales
Earlier today (March 16, 2012), the Philippines witnessed football history for our country during the semi-finals match of the AFC Challenge Cup between the Philippine Azkals and the Turkmenistan Green Men.
An optimistic nation (amidst the controversies back home) embraced the challenge to beat the Turkmenistan team in the hopes of clinching a spot for the finals.
Although we had a very nice first half, we were not able to sustain a 1 – 0 score from the goal hungry Turks, ending the game with 2 goals later for the Turkmenistan team.
It was almost a dream come true when Paul Mulder’s cross from the right made a perfect combination with Phil Younghusband just in time to nick the ball with his chest to take advantage of the moment, making it 1 – 0. It was when Amanov saw the opportunity of given time and space outside of the box to chip in the ball to beat our goalkeeper. It was followed shortly by Chonkaev’s ball-handling skills and attack that slotted the ball and sealed the deal for their finals berth.
As the ball pressed forward to the Turk’s post during the added injury time, an agonized Chonkaev was down. Confusion broke on the field and the final call was a red card for Etheridge. This is where the photo comes in...
According to the ref’s call, Neil was given the red because of an incident that was caught on cam. But now, looking at this photo, do we have another perspective that was left buried after the final whistle?
Who would have thought that the reason for Neil’s behavior was his response to this stimulus? You cannot deny what happened in this shot. We could have played dirty, but Football is a game for the friendly.
I was personally more disappointed than disgusted. The photo may also somehow show that the Turk’s were intimidated with the Azkals that they needed to resort to such cheap tricks. I don’t know, this is just my opinion. Football is definitely a game of chance.
We could’ve won if things turned out differently, but as a young team, we did splendid. Amidst the controversies that the team is now facing, they kept fighting for our country.
These Filipinos fought hard and they played fair. At the end of the day, I couldn’t have been more proud with how these boys including Coach Weiss and the people behind them strived hard to put Football in the Philippine limelight. Your thoughts?
By Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
KATHMANDU—The journey of Mt. Everest-like proportions continues for the Philippine Azkals here. Along the way, a squad growing in strength with every game is making history.
Displaying the resiliency and fighting heart that the team has been known for, the Azkals came back from a goal down to nip Tajikistan, 2-1, Tuesday and reach the semifinals of the AFC Challenge Cup for the first time at the Halchowk Stadium.
Strikers Phil Younghusband and Angel Guirado struck in a sensational second half as the Azkals, hounded by a sexual harassment controversy back home, responded resoundingly from a halftime deficit to eliminate one of the fancied sides in the tournament.
As the final whistle was blown, the Azkals formed themselves into a circle at the touchline and celebrated their biggest accomplishment yet since reaching the semifinals of the Suzuki Cup in Vietnam in December 2010.
The ecstatic players hugged each other, while captain Chieffy Caligdong raised the Philippine flag in front of a group of Filipinos who braved the chill to support the team.
The Filipino fans later sang the national anthem as the players whooped it up with a celebratory dive on the field with a rainbow serving as a fitting backdrop to one of the Philippines’ greatest moments in the sport.
Azkals manager Dan Palami, soaking wet from all the celebration, was at a loss for words.
“It’s unbelievable,” Palami said.
Nothing short of spectacular
The Azkals’ run has been nothing short of spectacular. They needed to go through prequalifying, winning over Mongolia in a two-leg affair, before hurdling the qualifying round in Myanmar last year.
Before they left Manila, Guirado and Lexton Moy were accused of sexual harassment for their conduct during a match with Malaysia last Feb. 29 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The odds were certainly stacked against the Azkals as they were also grouped with former champions North Korea and India. But the Azkals rose above adversity, even after going into halftime a goal down.
“I’m proud of this team,” said the Azkals’ German coach Michael Weiss. “This is not only fantastic, but a victory most deserved.”
The Azkals created the clear-chances in the first half, but the Tajiks took the lead through defender Negmatov Alexey’s header off a corner in the first minute of first-half injury time.
Caligdong looked to have cleared the ball from going past the line and Japanese referee Ryuji Sato had to discuss the play with the linesman before awarding the goal to the Tajiks.
Tajikistan was on the front foot in the early stages in the second half, but it was the Azkals who made the most out of their chance in the 54th minute.
Guirado did well to keep the attack going and sent a low cross for Younghusband. With Tajik keeper Alisher Tuychiev already beaten, Younghusband slotted it into an empty net for the equalizer.
Looming penalty shootout
Guirado earlier came close with a header that went over in the first half. And just when it looked like a penalty shootout was looming, the Filipino-Spanish forward rose above his defender and found the bottom corner to make it 2-1, 10 minutes from time.
Phil and James Younghusband and Paul Mulders came close to adding to the tally late in the match as the Azkals finished with a flourish.
Picking up from where they left off in the 2-nil win over former champion India, the Azkals started lively with Phil Younghusband coming close in the eighth minute with a shot from a tight angle that was saved.
Tajikistan enjoyed a good stretch of possession in the first half, but couldn’t craft a clear-cut chance as Carli de Murga, Ray Jonsson, Jason Sabio, Rob Gier and Juani Guirado proved more than equal to the challenge.
Neil Etheridge was called into action with an early clearance, but apart from that he was hardly troubled and was a commanding presence.
“You have to hand it to the guys, they played like there was no tomorrow and the results just came,” said Palami. “There’s talent here but they played with their hearts out.”
By Daryl Lagos
The Philippine men's squad are now on their final practices to their first ever match Vs North Korea in the AFC Challenge Cup 2012 tournament.
Amidst the unlikely news going on involving 2 of the team members, Lexton Moy & Angel Guirado, the team is put to the test on and off the pitch.
The ever popular team moniker "AZKALS" has been tarnished by reality as the former 1st lady commented that these "Stray Dogs" should behave.
In J. Henson's article, Rafa Garcia, was in the room when the incident happened said that the boys were on the hype and ever excited to play the game, talked about men stuff - Girls - when the commissioner came in.
In the men's locker room, I don't expect everybody to be wearing gowns and tuxedo, I also can't imagine bantering while on those, for the mens locker room is where the adrenaline starts pumping.
It might have been a misunderstanding, but with all due respect to Ms. Commissioner, a complaint such as "Sexual Harassment" might have been too uncalled for.
This might have been a lesson learned, one way or another not only for the team, but also for everyone.
A look on brighter side is that we are going head to head with AFC Challenge Cup Participating Countries in full force.
Neil Etheridge has vowed to make a solid stand for the Philippines as he was allowed by his English Club Fulham FC to participate in the tournament, further to this the Azkals will have Paul Mulders, Stephan Schrock, and Dennis Cagara on their side as the battle looms ahead.
As you might have already known, Team Vice Captain, Chieffy Caligdong has already announced his availability for the tournament.
Last time while the team was in Qatar, I asked him about how he was with the injury, he said that it was quite uncomfortable but he is working hard to get back in to shape just in time for the Cup. I'm glad that he is back and fighting for pride and country.
Azkals Line Up for Nepal
· Rob Gier
· Ray Anthony Jonsson
· Nestorio Margarse
· Stephan Schrock
· Nathaniel Burkey
· Paul Mulders
· Dennis Cagara
· Roxy Dorlas
· Juan Luis Guirado
· Marwin Angeles
· Joshua Beloya
· James Younghusband
· Phil Younghusband
· Ian Araneta
· Misagh Bahadoran
· Emelio Caligdong
· Roel Gener
· Angel Guirado
· Carli de Murga
· Lexton Moy
· Neil Etheridge
· Eduard Sacapano
· Jason Sabio
The Philippines is in a group of death as it faces North Korea, a qualifier to the World Cup finals last year; and former Challenge Cup titlists India (2008) and Tajikistan (2006).
The champion will automatically earn a spot in the AFC Asian Cup 2015 , One of the most awaited and prestigious tournament in ASIA.