Monday, March 21, 2011

A brief history of Myanmar vs. the Philippines

WILL the Azkals get third-time lucky when they face host Myanmar today or will the fans be treated to a third goalless draw between the two squads?

The Philippines will kick off its AFC Challenge Cup Group B campaign against Myanmar today, hoping to finally win one against the host and boosts its chance of making the quarterfinal round.

But despite being the highest ranked of the three teams at No. 151, coach Hans Michael Weiss isn’t convinced the rankings will make the Philippines the favorites.

“We have to be realistic. The ranking is not a true reflection of the status of the teams. I don’t want to spoil the party, I don’t want to spoil the joy, but we just have to take it one step at a time. We are not a super football nation yet. We still have a long way to go,” Weiss told a national daily.

Myanmar is 161, while Bangladesh is 174 and Palestine is 174.

The Philippines and Myanmar have met three times since 2004 and only one goal was scored.

During their first meeting in the Group Stage of the then Tiger Cup on Dec. 12, 2004, Myanmar spoiled what could have been the first point earned by the Philippines in international play in a decade after sneaking in an injury-time goal in the 93rd minute.

That team had Michael Casas on goal, Alexander Borromeo upfront and Fil-foreigners Chris Greatwitch, Anton del Rosario, Chad Gould. Emilio Caligdong was a super-sub and he proved when he came off the bench to score twice in injury time for the Azkals win against East Timor, 2-1.

Striker Freddy Gonzales, the first Pinoy to sign a contract in the Vietnamese League, failed to join the team as he was getting married.

The next meeting came in 2007, the first time the Philippines qualified for the AFF Championships before it was renamed the Suzuki Cup.

The Azkals had bad luck written all over prior to the tournament as they lost Alexander Borromeo, now in a familiar role as the defensive anchor with the arrival of the Younghusband brothers in 2005, to an injury in a friendly a week prior to the campaign.

A month before the tournament, Phil Younghusband announced he couldn’t join the team as he was fighting for his spot in the Chelsea reserve, while brother James was already with AFC Wimbledon. James also skipped the tournament.

In their first two games, the Azkals lost to Malaysia, 4-0, and Thailand, 4-0, and was to face Myanmar in their final game. Myanmar was tipped to make the semis as it drew Thailand, 1-1, and Malaysia, 0-0.

But then something weird happened.

Here’s the dispatch from of that match, “In the event, the game of football’s unpredictability upset pre-match expectations and fancied Myanmar were stalled in their semi-final quest by soccer minnows Philippines.”

“Myanmar needed to win big and Malaysia required victory to secure semi-final berths but a slender 1-0 win to Thailand and an unexpected draw in the Myanmar-Philippine clash meant that Thailand and Malaysia went through from the group.”

The hero of the match was Michael Casas, while defender Anton del Rosario, too, headed off a shot zooming to the goal. reported, “In the second half, Myanmar virtually camped in the Philippine half but they forward just could not score or otherwise hit the post and when they were on target Filipino goalkeeper Louie Michael Casas displayed a plucky pair of hands.

“At 1.71m, Casas is the shortest keeper in the tournament but his safekeeping, fine judgment and agility made him then outstanding player of the night.”

That 0-0 draw earned the Philippines its first headline in the website.

Cedelf Tupas was the only reporter traveling the team and he later told this writer, (Daw buang ko nga ga sige syagit ako ra isa."

Myanmar coach U Sann Win said, “Philippines (is) lucky. We attacked for forty-three minutes in the second half but our forwards were unlucky not to score.”

Unlike their second match, their third game didn’t happen under the radar as it came fresh from the Azkals 2-0 upset over Vietnam and this time, it was the Philippines that was on the attack for most of the match.

Game No. 4, is today.

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