Monday, May 19, 2014

Fair Play: Hoping for a great stint in Challenge Cup

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's May 19 issue)
TOMORROW, the Philippines will open its campaign in the AFC Challenge Cup, two years after finishing third in Nepal.

In previous campaigns, a semifinal stint would have been a satisfactory goal, but now, after finishing third in 2012, anything but a finals stint is unsatisfactory.

There is only one target in Maldives and that is to win it all. Win the title and qualify for the Asian Cup in 2015 in Australia.

Can we do it? Well, in 2012, we were minutes away from the final and had our defense held on, we could have been playing for the title.

The Philippines will open its campaign against Afghanistan without Phil Younghusband and Rob Gier, the team leader who’s also a valuable asset in the backline, due to accumulated yellows. And even before the breakout year in 2010, during group stages, the Philippines has always played badly in the first game, before picking up the pace in the next two. Take not, those two marque victories against Vietnam came in the second of the group stage matches.

Why is that? Perhaps because even before, the first game is usually the first time the whole team gets to compete as one and if the first round is when boxers feel each other out, the first game is when the players are still adjusting with each other.

To solve that first-game issues, the team has embarked on a long training camp and majority of the players have been training together since March.

Some fans said the 2012 Suzuki Cup lineup was our strongest ever, but I think this has got to be our best lineup ever.

Why do I think so? It’s simple. Everyone’s good enough to start and that should be the the hallmark of a national squad. Before, you’d pray that no one gets injured because who would replace him? Now, take a look at even the goalkeeper position, the Nos. 2 and 3 have the experience under the belt for the national squad.

Will we win the Challenge Cup with such lineup? We should, because anything short is a failure. And the team knows that.

USC LINEUP. Coach Mario Ceniza recently released the 23-man lineup that will lead Queen City United-University of San Carlos this year.

The team is stacked with incoming freshmen with 10—Tristom Romero of Mandaue Christian School, Jupre Aparece of Lapu-Lapu City, Dave Paez, Ezra Decena, Kerr Agot of DBTC, Miguel Kwan and Mark Veloso of SHS-Ateneo and John Dexter Espiritu of Mandaue Technical Institute. Freshmen Neil Portugaleza of Bayawan and Paolo Saguin of Dipolog also made it.

Current varsity members who made the cut are Orson Kenneth Tan, Carlo Abella, Edward John Belo, John Daniel Caballero, Gabriel de Leon, Januarius Paglinawan, John Rey Melgo, Keen Agot, Jules Villahermosa, Yves Russel Caballero, John Paul Arnaiz, Jonathan Caballero and Anthony Arizabal.

USC made the finals the past two years but couldn’t get past the University of San Jose Recoletos. Let's see if this team can change that.

1 comment:

Tanya Chica said...

Mario is coaching USC now? What happens to Gary?