Azkals bow to Bahrain in friendly, 3-1

Friendly matches are meant to test the team’s mettle and for the coach to determine his best lineup, but the fact that it’s not an official competition, still can’t take away how it sucks when the team loses.

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So last Friday, I trooped to the Rizal Memorial Stadium right after work to catch the 8pm friendly match of the Azkals vs. Bahrain. I got in a couple of minutes before half time, which was actually okay considering Bahrain scored the opening goal just a few minutes into the game. I witnessed their second goal, though, which opened the second half of play. The third was a minute into stoppage time, just when I thought the team would try to equalize, let alone concede a last-minute goal. I was screaming internally, furious at the turn of events, but the team had it coming. They played sluggishly, defending really sloppily at times. Maybe it was because of the unconventional lineup?

Anyway, the good thing about this is that new faces were given playing time by Coach Dooley. One of them, Mike Ott (yes, Manny Ott’s brother), even scored our lone goal. Ott replaced Kevin Ingreso at the half. Patrick Deyto was given the chance to shine at the post, while Fitch Arboleda, Paolo Bugas, and Daniel Gadia also saw some playing time although noticeably missing from the action was Stephan Schrock who watched the entire match from the bench.

(Saw and got the chance to talk briefly to him at their hotel, though!!!)

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I sure hope this isn’t a sign of things to come. It’s only a month from the AFF Suzuki Cup, and the team is slated against some really tough opponents. The best time to shape up is NOW.

Tonight, the Azkals play North Korea, which they held to a scoreless draw the last time around. I won’t be there to watch the game in the stadium but they sure can expect me to be cheering from wherever I am at the time.

P.S. Thanks Kevin for the tickets and Ederlyn for accompanying me to the game! It was really fun (despite the loss) =)

 

 

Five Months and A Win

It’s been five months since my last football post and Azkals game. I can’t believe I stayed away for so loooong! Well now that I’ve shaken off the dust, here’s my take on the team’s latest friendly  which was streamed live and without commentators via a Kyrgyzstan live streaming link.

Last night, the 134th-seeded Azkals went up against a stronger Kyrgyzstan team, currently ranked 105th in the world, sans Stephan Schrock, Simone Rota, and Patrick Reichelt. They (surprisingly) emerged victorious, with the final score at 2-1.

The starting lineup was as follows: Neil Etheridge, Amani Aguinaldo, Dennis Villanueva, Martin Steuble, Manny Ott, Kevin Ingreso, Daisuke Sato, Misagh Bahadoran, Phil Younghusband, Iain Ramsay, and James Younghusband. This was the plan, according to Sir Dan Palami’s Twitter account (see image below).

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Excuse me while I pretend to understand all these arrows.

The first half saw some sloppy defending from the boys. Most of it was played on Kyrgyzstan’s side of the pitch with ours barely seeing any action– until the 43rd minute, when Kevin Ingreso, coming off an error, scored the first goal via Phil Younghusband’s free kick. Ingreso, unmarked, was spotted by PYH who passed the ball to him, which he then curled towards the goal. Beaut.

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I just had to, okay? 😀

The score was 1-nil at halftime. I couldn’t sleep even if it was way past my bed time (IKR) and also because I just got home from the gym and had a strong cup of coffee to keep me up, not that I needed it. The Azkals’ second goal came at the 52nd minute, with some Ramsay-Munoz-Bahadoran teamwork to create that header by Misagh.

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I give myself an A for effort.

Picture aside, it was refreshing to see fresh faces on the squad. It was, I believe, Junior Munoz’debut for the NT and he was already able to assist in securing the goal.

Just when I thought I could relax a little bit, Kyrgyzstan pulled back with a goal of their own on the 60th minute. They just wouldn’t let me sleep that easily. Ugh.

The remaining 30 minutes was full of hair-pulling, screaming, and jeering (all on my end). Neil had so many fantastic saves, including one from a penalty kick. A PENALTY KICK!!! The ball just couldn’t get past Neil’s enormous hands. Hehehe. :p

Crazy enough as the 5 minutes additional stoppage time was, full time was delayed by around 2 minutes because a referee probably had a different idea of the time. No one knew why because we were all just watching via the live stream with no one to explain what was going on in Kyrgyzstan. I was holding my breath the entire time (or not) because as you and I know, anything can happen in football.

It wasn’t exactly a magnificent overall performance by the boys in white, but a win is still a win. I just hope this friendly and the upcoming ones are enough to prepare the team for the Suzuki Cup. ‘Til the next games in October!

 

P.S. I miss Hans-On. Do you miss it, too?

 

Azkals win over powerhouse North Korean team

The Azkals beat North Korea.

I repeat.

The Azkals beat North Korea– a team that has been to the World Cup just 6 years ago (!!!). And I was there to witness it at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

It was a relatively cool Tuesday night, with 7,351 fans making their way to the RMS to watch the Philippine Azkals tackle the superior North Korean team on home soil. A couple of months ago, the Azkals held the North Koreans to a scoreless draw in Pyongyang, in front of the massive NoKor home crowd. Reeling from a five-game losing streak, the Azkals came prepared and undeterred, with only a win in mind.

    
The start list was a surprise. There was no Phil Younghusband and Stephan Schrock on the frontlines (blame it on injuries). Miguel Tanton was on the list despite it being his very first callup. Misagh Bahadoran, who we’re used to see as a winger, was to play as a Center Forward. Iain Ramsay was nowhere to be found in the starting XI. Little did everyone know, Coach Dooley, whose contract expired after the game, had plans up his sleeve.

The NoKor team was a tough act to beat. Their superiority showed all throughout the first half with one too many close calls and missed shots on goal. Add to that the knowledge that the Azkals barely had time to practice, resulting in miscommunication between the players, particularly Tanton and Misagh.  “We had the worst travel schedule out of all of them. We were all over the world, all over the air,” Dooley lamented at the post-match presser.

  Despite the difficulties they encountered even before the game, it was their performance that mattered– and boy, did they deliver. The Azkals’ defending was superb, with Neil Etheridge manning the goalpost and Amani doing everything he could to protect the goal. Ott played skillfully at midfield. Patino was technical up top.  It was at the 43rd minute that Misagh connected with Javi for a goal, as the entire stadium erupted into a thunderous celebration. The fanfare was short-lived, as the visitors scored a goal of their own, right before the halftime whistle.

  After the halftime break, the NoKor team scored another goal to gain a one-point lead over the home team. Iain Ramsay and James Younghusband (who got another shot at the NT after being shunned for a couple of months) came in to add fresh legs to the squad. The substitutions proved to be a good call as James and his leadership skills boosted the team’s bravado, while Ramsay scored the Philippines’ winning goal right before Full Time. Manny Ott’s goal (second of the Azkals in the game) was also a sight to behold as Manu displayed master skill and command of the midfield all throughout the game.

It’s been a while since a home game has brough thismuch excitement to Azkals fans everywhere. I think most had low hopes for a good outcome because of North Korea’s experience, but boy am I sure everyone was glad to have been completely surprised by the team’s good performance.

“It’s all about work, being disciplined, being organized. The difference of a world class team is the time you take to realize a situation. It’s work, work, work,” Dooley explained.

“We created our chances and we scored (out of them). They scored because of individual mistakes,” he added.

  When asked about his takeaway from the match, Dooley answered furtively, “We have to believe that we can actually beat teams that have gone to the World Cup. We can believe that one day we can make it. It starts now.”

Yes, Coach. We believe more than ever.

P.S. It is also worth noting that last night’s game was Juani Guirado’s last match for the Azkals. You will be missed, Juani.  

  

So I changed my blog address

10422199_10205997272788592_6393279420750110303_nSince the last time I posted something here, a lot has already happened in local football. Many players have come and gone, teams in and out of relegation. I’ve been part of two football shows, worked with five hosts, countless guests, on one network— NMFtv.

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Fever Pitch (2013)

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with Phil and James Younghusband

From a new footy fan, I believe I’ve learned more than I possibly could in the four years that I’ve been supporting (mostly) local football. This new blog address is a play on one of the segments that I have for my football show (hosted by no less than Coach Hans Smit and Jing Jamlang), the 12th Man. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to spread my love and support for the sport that I have come to love as the producer of Hans-On. I have been approached by different people on countless occasions saying they enjoyed watching the show. Full credit goes to Coach Hans and Jing who are masters at their craft. My work is nothing compared to theirs. 🙂

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with Coach Hans and Jing, covering the PFF Smart National Club Championship

I’ve never actually quite gotten over my football fangirling self as I still let myself shriek (a little quietly) every now and then, especially when I meet some of my favorite players.

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Coach Hans, Jing, OJ Porteria (!!!), Kenshiro Daniels, Simone Rota, Sr. Mary

I never imagined meeting some of them, let alone strike a conversation, with the players I only used to write blog posts about. I may have been entangled in controversies with a couple (blame it on Mo), but I have generally made peace with these guys. Four years ago, I was content learning and watching the game alone from the stands. I’m sure if my new footy fan girl self saw me now, she would most definitely be proud. 🙂

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At the UFL Opening in 2012

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At the 2015 PFF Smart Club Championship

I’m back.

I’m sorry I haven’t posted anything lately. I’ve been quite busy with work, handling 13 shows on NMF. It’s been a busy few months for me… with only a few football games in between.

Of the shows I’m handling, one is a football show, hosted by Guam NT player Jonah Romero. I started Fever Pitch a few months ago with Rick Olivares (who had to leave the show for personal reasons), who then brought Jonah in to be his co-host. I was quite unsure about the choice as I haven’t met Jonah personally, and have only seen him play on the pitch for the club I support, Kaya FC. Jonah is the perfect combination of nice and funny, with a good knowledge of the game (obviously) to back him up. (Okay, I should stop kissing ass now ;D) He has since been joined by Amanda Fernandez of Sikat FC, who is an exceptional host, and a sweetheart in real life.

Fever Pitch has had 12 19 episodes so far, with guests from the local football clubs, the Philippines Men’s and Women’s National Teams, and even some from Jonah’s (Guam) National Team, to even our local futsal team. It’s been a blast getting to know players off the pitch where I usually just watch them play.

As of this writing, we just finished taping another (YES, YOU READ THAT RIGHT) football show, this time hosted by THE Coach Hans-Peter Smit, and UFL Commentator Jing Jamlang, set to pilot REALLY SOON. Hans On is for those who follow the sport religiously and for those fans who rejoice and cry for every win and/or loss. It is not for the faint-hearted, and is for those unfazed by Coach Hans’ colorful language. It’s for fans who think football is the beautiful game… with surprisingly beautiful players.

Whichever of the shows you choose, I’m sure it will pretty much be worth your time. I try my best to help the hosts produce really good episodes for everyone to enjoy every single week. Football has basically taken over (what is left of) my life, and if football has taken over yours too, you’ll be more than glad to watch anything about this beautiful sport.

P.S. And we just released the pilot episode of Hans On! Watch it here and let me know what you think. Just ignore the sound of Coach Hans’ bling against the mic for the first few minutes. we just have to figure out a better position to put the lapel mic on so it won’t interfere with the sound and the whole Hans look. 🙂

http://nmfnetwork.tv/2013/10/11/ho-1-pilot/