The Azkals made the Philippines proud!

The Azkals will do well in the future just as long as politics takes a step back. 

With our backs against the wall, Team Philippines need two points to clinch a finals berth.

We are rooting for the Azkals!

Football fever has finally hit the Philippines!

I watched the entire match of the Game 2 semifinal match of Philippines against Indonesia at the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup. I don’t normally enjoy football matches but for some reason I was anxiously waiting for Phil and James Younghusband to hit a massive goal! You know that Indonesia is a powerhouse. Cristian Gonzales scored a long bomb which was the first and only goal scored by both squads. That Okto, Zulkifli, Bustomi, Afir, Yongki, and Nasuha were relentless. The biggest thorn in the Philippines’ side on court was their goalkeeper Markus. What Markus did was a Herculean task to prevent the Azkals from scoring. Unfortunately, it was easy for Markus to block the shots.

The Brothers Younghusband were rattled by the defense of the Indons while at the same time the Indonesians have successfully checked Ian Araneta, Jason De Jong, Ray Jonnson, Roel Gener, and Chris Greatwich. Anton del Rosario missed a few long balls while they couldn’t count on Aly Borromeo for scoring because he was basically shadowing “El Loco” Gonzales. Dribbling from coast to coast was hard because of the stingy Indons. We had a lot of corner kick chances which was the only sure chance they could score but Markus and the Indonesian defense was successful to evade the ball from hitting the goal.

After the 2-0 win against Vietnam, the Azkals has yet to score a goal in their last three games. The defense was there but they get a lot of execution errors when they are about to score the goal. I can count five should-be goals that were missed because of bad executions. But make no mistake, they were good. They hustled in almost every opportunity and they never backed down and retaliated when the Indons tried to fight dirty.

However, this is where the homecourt advantage came into place. Why on earth would outgoing PFF President Jose Mari Martinez get Indonesia as our “home court”? The Azkals were jeered and they rarely caught a break from the officials. Malaysia and Vietnam have their own series going... why not held the games to either place? Sure, the Bung Karno Stadium was jampacked but imagine the pain of our athletes getting poor calls in two games! Also, there are a few places in Southeast Asia that has a credible venue if they don’t want Panaad or Rizal Memorial Stadium. Thailand, Singapore, and Myanmar are places that could help us... but it wasn’t the case.

No excuses though, the better team won. The Indons looked comfortable and they never felt threatened despite the slim lead. Their defense looked extremely tight and there were times when they would sprint to their goal with little passing mishaps. Neil Etheridge was frustrated because it seems that the defense looks distraught and whenever he tosses the ball to signal an attack, his pass would get intercepted by a random Indonesian midfielder or defender. Worse, El Loco was single-handedly getting himself free with Rob Gier, Borromeo, Del Rosario, and the rest of the Azkals trying hard to protect the goal. 

But still you can’t fault the attention the Azkals brought to Pinoy football. The game people thought best suit us than basketball got the recognition it deserved because of these men. Simon McMenemy transformed a lackluster squad to a Southeast Asian threat. Hopefully this team will continue to improve and get whatever they need to make football the “in thing”.

The government must fund facilities and schools should prominently feature the sport in their physical education classes even in makeshift places.

Just like the current fame Philippine football is having, football merely yearns a bunch of baby steps and in an instant, a successful program would emerge.

Congratulations, Azkals!

Never stop improving!

Game over!    


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