The Road to Asian Cup 2015: The AFC Challenge Cup 2012, Dreaming Bigger
Our very own Philippine National Football Team, popularly known as the Azkals is now two wins away from playing in the Asian Cup 2015 to be hosted by Australia. This could have not happened after the 53rd goal of Phil Younghusband and the diving header of Angel Guirado on the 80th minute that sealed the win for the Philippines.
Let’s walk down memory lane on how the Azkals made a historic debut on the AFC Challenge Cup Semis.
February 9, 2011 – Pre-Qualifying Play-off – Azkals vs Blue Wolves
FT Philippines 2-0 Mongolia (Caligdong 43′, PYH 90′ + 4′) | 1st Leg | Venue: Panaad Stadium, Bacolod, Philippines | Attendance: Approx. 20,000
Chieffy delivered the 1st goal right between the legs of the Mongolian goalie Ganbayar Tseveensuren while PYH sealed the win with a left boot goal right through the Mongolian defense.
March 15, 2011 – Pre-Qualifying Play-off – Azkals vs Blue Wolves
FT Mongolia 2-1 Philippines (Donorov Lumbengarav 22’, Garidmagnan Bayasgalan 35’ (MNG), James Younghusband 4’ (PHI)) | 2nd Leg | Venue: Football Center MFF, Ulanbatar, Mongolia | Attendance: Approx. 3000
Phil Younghusband, who played a big role in the 1st leg, failed to finish the game after suffering from a pulled hamstring. The Philippines won in aggregate points and moved on to the Group Stage against Palestine, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
March 21, 2011 – Qualifiers – Group Stage – Group A – Azkals vs White Angles
FT Myanmar 1-1 Philippines (James Younghusband 76’ (PK), Khin Maung Lwin 90+3’ | Venue: Youth Training Center, Yangon, Myanmar | Attendance: Approx. 5000
The match ended in a heart-breaking draw after the literally last minute (of the stoppage time) goal for Myanmar courtesy of their captain, Khin Maung Lwin.
March 23, 2011 – Qualifiers – Group Stage – Group A – Azkals vs The Knights/Fighters
FT Philippines 0-0 Palestine | Venue: Youth Training Center, Yangon, Myanmar | Attendance: Approx. 500
Angel Guirado had the best scoring attempt on the 62nd minute with a header but was saved by the Palestinian GK. The Palestinian counter-attacks caused some problems with the Azkals and their shots hit the crossbar twice and were more dangerous in possession.
March 25, 2011 – Qualifiers – Group Stage – Group A – Azkals vs Bengal Tigers
FT Bangladesh 0-3 Philippines (Ian Araneta 41’, Angel Guirado 55’, 80’) | Venue: Aung San Stadium, Yangon, Myanmar | Attendance: Approx. 200
The Azkals advanced into the AFC Challenge Cup 2012 Finals after thrashing out a sensational 3-0 victory over Bangladesh placing 2nd in the Group Stage with 5 points. Angel Guirado was the man of the match after scoring 2 goals in the second half.
March 9, 2012 – Finals – AFC Challenge Cup 2012 – Group B – Azkals vs Chollima
FT DPR Korea 2-0 Philippines (Pak Nam Chol 58’, Jang Kuk Chol 70’) | Venue: Halchowk Stadium, Kathmandu, Nepal | Attendance: Approx. 1500
The defending champs dominated the Azkals in the group B opening match after a 2-0 win in the second half. The Philippines played good defense in the first half but broke the Azkals’ wall on the 58th minute heading pass Neil Etheridge. The Cholimmas were more precarious in ball possession and on the 70th, substitute Jang Kuk Chol ensured three points with an opportunistic strike.
March 11, 2012 – Finals – AFC Challenge Cup 2012 – Group B – Azkals vs Blue Tigers
FT Philippines 2-0 India (Phil Younghusband 10’, 73’) | Venue: Dashrath Stadium, Kathmandu, Nepal | Attendance: Approx. 300
The Philippines celebrated a well-deserved victory against the former title holder in 2008, India. The 1st goal came early after Phil Younghusband blasted the ball into the bottom left corner of the net on the 10th minute, from Jasion Sabio’s powerful throw-ins. The striker followed it up with another goal on the 73rd minute, off pass from James Younghusband.
March 13, 2012 – Finals – AFC Challenge Cup 2012 – Group B – Azkals vs The Persian Lion
FT Philippines 2-1 Tajikistan (Phil Younghusband 54’, Angel Guirado 80’ (PHI), Negmatov Alexey 45+1’ (TAJ)) | Venue: Halchowk Stadium, Kathmandu, Nepal | Attendance: Approx. 800
The Philippines yet made another record breaking stunt after a 2-1 victory over a former titlist Tajikistan (2006) last Tuesday. At the very end of the 1st half, and a controversial call by the referee, the Persian Lions took the lead before half time. In an exhilarating second half, Phil Younghusband scored an impressive goal from an excellent assists from Angel Guirado. And on the 80th minute, Angel Guirado proved otherwise as he scored in a stroppy header which chested towards the goal that sealed a sweet triumph over the Tajiks and an historic pass to the semis. Unfortunately, Angel Guirado and James Younghusband will be missing the semis against Turkmenistan due to collective bookings incurred.
March 16, 2012 – Finals – AFC Challenge Cup 2012 – Semi Finals – Azkals vs Green Men
Preview: Philippines vs Turkmenistan
In the chase for a dream, the Philippine National Football Team will be facing Turkmenistan on Friday, March 16th at 4:45 MLA Time. There is limited information about the opponent. The Green Men topped Group A by aggregate points against Palestine. They have not loss any of the matches slashing both Maldives and Nepal with 3 goals each and a draw with Palestine during their Group Stages run.
The Philippines on the other hand, made a pretty decent defensive display during the Group Stages. But, with both Angel Guirado and James Younghusband missing the match and Caligdong not in full form, the stakes of making it to the Finale is in blur. Nevertheless, the mere fact that the Azkals made it thru the semis is already a historic achievement. Winning against Turkmenistan and winning the Cup would be a sweet consolation.
As shown in the graph below, Turkmenistan had a pretty gigantic fall in the FIFA Rankings for the last 6 months compared to the Philippines which is consistently improving slowly but surely, a little something to cheer for amidst the much awaited match and the agony that it will bring about to all of us.
The Road to AFC Asian Cup 2015 – Dreaming Big
The next two matches will be a do-or-die pass to a bigger and more exciting journey – the AFC Asian Cup 2015 to be hosted by Australia on January 4 to 26. This will be the 16th edition and Australia was the sole bidder for the hosting rights and was officially named host on January 5, 2011.
The teams who finished first, second and third in the AFC Asian Cup 2011 and the hosting nation, receives automatic byes to finals – Japan, Australia and South Korea (in order). The winners of the AFC Challenge Cup 2012 and 2014 qualify automatically as well. The remaining spots will be available for the teams competing in the main Asia Cup preliminaries. The formats for these preliminaries are not yet known.
If (calling all the gods and goddesses) by any chance, the Philippines bring home the bacon for the AFC Challenge Cup 2012, it will be the highest achievement to date by far. Yes, I am dreaming BIG for the National Football Team. They worked very hard despite all the challenges, a true FILIPINO trait that nobody can question. A trait that is common to every Filipino I know and you know.
Now, let’s listen to the sound of the vuvuzuela’s and the drums.
Cheer all your heart out!
Dream bigger and keep believing!