Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hail the Azkals!

The Philippines' stunning 1-1 stalemate with favourites Singapore will rank as one of their best results in their international football history.

Coached by Englishman Simon McMenemy, the Azkals belied their so-called minnow status in regional football by giving as good as they got, matching their so-called more superior opponents for much of the game.

Only in the job for just more than three months, the former non-league assistant manager has worked some kind of miracle into the team, blending in the foreign-born Filipino-blood imports with the locals into a formidable unit.

While the process of naturalising these imports for Philippines football has begun way back in 2004 with the arrivals of goalscorer Chris Greatwitch, Chad Gould and the Younghusband brothers, Philip and James, it is the influx of the likes of Fulham goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, Jason de Jong and Ray Jonsson who have greatly strengthened the side.

Etheridge, save for the goal he conceded, was a rock that the Lions endured a frustrating evening gettting past. He was probably the main reason why his side were in contention for the game they held their own for so long before their deserved equaliser.

While their tactic forward was virtually a throwback of the old-fashioned long ball forward, such was its effectiveness, coupled with the clever exploitation of space and poor positioning by the Lions, that Singapore were never given an easy ride at all.

The Philippines will probably still not make it past the group stage, but their precious one point could pave the way for more miracles in that team, and probably spice up the passion of football in the basketball and Pacaqiao-mad nation.

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