Friday, December 28, 2012

Fair Play: 2012 was the best year yet for PH football

THOUGH it ended with yet another semifinal exit in the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup, 2012 was the best year for Philippine football.

And not just for the men’s team.

We reached our second semifinal and got our first major trophy during the AFC Challenge Cup, we won the Peace Cup trophy, our first title in 99 years, and we reached another semifinal in the Suzuki Cup.

Based on records, we played 21 matches in 2012, and had 10 wins, 3 draws and 8 losses.

Rankings wise, we started at 157 among Fifa members, got to our highest at 143 last month before ending the year at 147. According to Roy Moore of GMA 7 we were the most improved nation again according to the Elo rankings and I'll take his word on it.  I know most readers don't know how Fifa comes up with its rankings and there's no point adding to it by discussing what an Elo ranking is.

For me, the best game for the Philippines this year, aside from the 1-0 win over Vietnam, was that 2-1 loss to Kuwait because it showed that we can more than hold our own against one of the elite teams in Asia.

After trailing 1-0 in the first half, we got into the match in the second half, we outplayed Kuwait in the second half and the stats showed it.  Ball possession was 63-37 for the host in the first half but at 56-44 after full time, which showed it was 28 percent on our favor in the second half.

In the past, the Philippines has traditionally collapsed in the final 15 minutes, now, we play better in the second half. Next year, would it be for the full 90 minutes?

Women’s football, too, set a new mark this year with the Malditas winning the Vikings Cup in LA over the Cosmos via a penalty shootout, 4-3.  I’m not so sure with the history, but I think that’s the first penalty shootout win in a finals involving a Philippine team.  The girls get a lot of flak over their nickname, but hey, you can’t be a Maria Clara and survive the training sessions or win those 50-50s.

Our U14 team, the Little Azkals, also scored a podium finish in Japan early this year, showing that progress of the future senior team players is on track.

For local fans, 2012 was also a great year.  We finally had a united Cebu Football Association and local tournaments are growing.  We also got our first international friendly.

Of course, the big question, what happens next?

Next year will be crucial, for both Cebu and Philippine football.  In 2008, the then CFA board had a great start, but fell apart a year later and it would be interesting to know if this year’s board members can really set themselves apart.

I really hope so because of the present football atmosphere, so much is riding on the shoulders of the present board members that I believe that if ever they’d go the way of the 2008 board, Cebu would really suffer.

As for the men’s team, coach Michael Weiss told me in an earlier interview that 2013 would be a tapering off a year, after a frenetic two years which he called as “a 10-year progress crammed into two years.”

Coach Weiss’s contract will end in January and so far, all indications are for a renewal though we haven’t heard the official word.  For the Azkals, there’s the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers in Manila in March.  There’s also too, the Southeast Asian Games in November, and it would be interesting to note if the PFF has learned the lesson of the 2011 debacle, when an ill-prepared squad failed to match the hype with results. 

Even before the 2010 Suzuki Cup campaign, the men’s and women’s team have steadily risen, so too, our youth campaigns, will the growth continue in 2013?

I guess, we will find out.

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