Saturday, July 02, 2011

Fair Play: Let's remind them what the Azkals are

WHEN I watched the World Cup Fifa qualifiers draw and saw the Philippines drew Sri Lanka in Round 1 of the Fifa World Cup qualifiers, I, and so many others, looked right at the Round 2 match.

On to Kuwait, I thought.

“Let’s beat Kuwait!” one of the Azkals starters tweeted.

Fact is, I was so confident the match last Wednesday would be in our favor that I thought that it would be better if I’d just apply for accreditation for the home leg of the Kuwait series since covering a “foregone conclusion” wouldn’t be that great compared to a match where the Azkals are expected to fight for their very lives.

Big mistake.

A very big mistake.



Sri Lanka showed us why and it shouldn’t have been a surprise.

A team struggling for recognition in its own country, where it isn’t even the second-most popular sport facing a foe that is well-funded, better-trained, ranked higher and expected to simply overwhelm them and move on to bigger matches.

Sounds familiar?

It should be. A year ago that description fit the Philippines.

And last Wednesday, the Philippines felt what Singapore felt when it was held to a 1-1 draw in the Suzuki Cup and the Azkals fans felt what the Indomitable Lions’ fans felt when a the opposing team’s plucky keeper held our strikers at bay, with save after save.

And truth be told, it wasn’t a nice feeling.

It was a feeling shared by thousands of fans who packed sports bars all over the country, and the thousands of others—millions (?)—who watched the match at home.

I watched the game in Sports Exchange—which is quickly becoming the home of Cebuano football fans—with hundreds of fans and the place exploded when the Sri Lankans took the lead, off a free kick in the 43rd minute.

One fan who posted in the Pinoyfootball fan page, said it best for all of us, “P----- ina, naunahan tayo!”

Despite conceding the goal, I always knew the Azkals would fight back. I knew they wouldn’t lose that match. Call premonition or what, but it was the same feeling I had in the Singapore match last year.

And true enough, the place exploded again, when the Philippines got the equalizer off an Emilio Caligdong free kick. It was a different Philippine team that showed up in the second half and whatever Coach Michael Weiss or Dan Palami said during the break, seemed to have work.

But the second goal never came.

And the Philippine team is headed home, with a 1-1 draw.

But that’s enough, for me.

You see, even before all this attention was given to the players, the team has been doing well at home, compiling six wins, one draw and one loss for the past five years.

Ever since losing to Laos, 2-1, in the first game of the AFF Championships qualifiers on Nov. 12, 2006 in Bacolod City, the Philippine team hasn’t lost in seven matches, scoring 18 goals, while conceding only one in six wins and a draw.

And ever since he suited up for the Philippines in 2008, Neil Etheridge and the solid back four led by captain Alexander Borromeo hasn’t conceded a single goal in four matches.

So, welcome home Azkals.

Sri Lanka may have surprised us last Wednesday, they may have reminded us what’s it’s like to be the underdog, at home.

On Sunday, let’s remind them who the Azkals are.


(www.football.cebunetwork.com)

4 comments:

manfred said...

Home and away basis, now the people start to understand why sometimes 5. division teams in other countries can beat 1.division teams in a cup home match. The home crowd is often the 12.player and lack of technic at home is easy to compensate with fighting. Most of the Azkal players were individually better than their opponents but the fighting and rough stile in a homematch can be very effective. So the Azkal result was a good result and what everybody could see was that the Azkals are tried to make the game even on the opponents pitch. S
o, no problem. Just get used to the home and away and you will find out more advantages and disadvantages and why the location is so important. I remember that Philippines gave away the home advantage against Indonesia. I still wonder why.

Mike Limpag said...

That's right Manfred, not too many Pinoys are used with these two-leg series, and the away goals rules..etc... but they are slowly starting to catch up. By the way,Stephen Shrock was brilliant in that game.

philippineazkalsfan said...

i love you james younghusband..

Akals fan said...

i love you james younghusband..