Thursday, February 24, 2011

More football strategy talk: A deeper look at the Azkal’s exciting new offensive attack

Azkals strategy talk: Breaking down the tough defense of Mongolia’s Blue Wolves

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Designing Kits

What's up with Brazil's New Home Kit?

brazil 11-12 nike home football shirt leaked

Yes the 2011/12 edition is still in the iconic canary yellow trademark color. 

Yes it is still made by Nike, ensuring the Samba Boys maximum publicity and exposure.

But WTF is that design??

It's almost as if the designers ran out of ideas, and out of desperation took inspiration in their Windows Toolbar. 


Let's put a toolbar on the shirt!

I'm gonna submit my application to the designer's job at Nike Football first thing tomorrow.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Azkals vs Mongolia Leg 1

*photo by Kieron Tan via Azkals United.

First off, pardon this incoherent post. I watched the game in the comfort of the hospital room, where my wife gave birth Feb 10. 

This will be more like a bullet list of my observations of the Azkals game against Mongolia. 

-- Careless Passing of the Azkals, which nearly resulted in several catastrophic one on ones with Neil. Were they overconfident and complacent, or downright jittery? The Azkals had so many passes straight to the Mongolian players, and these passes were under very little pressure.

-- Is it just me, or is the Panaad pitch so bad that the ball took many wicked and unexpected bounces, and caught some players by surprise?

-- Due to boredom, Neil decided to venture upfield, almost to the halfway line. What are you doing there?? Very risky venture from the Fulham man.

-- Man Marking by Mongolia. 
   THIS, we have got to get used to, most especially Phil. He must not lose his cool.

-- The Ray Jonsson Experiment.
    He looked lost in Midfield, didn't he?  Had to be brought back to Left Back at the start of the second half. He didn't have those penetrating runs to meet crosses from the wings.  

-- Chieffy was electric. 
    Before he scored, he was the sole offensive threat of the Azkals that worked. Oftentimes, the ball was dumped to the left wing, where he sent several brilliant crosses in. Which NO ONE got to the end of. Finally got tired of sending crosses and decided to tuck one in himself. Commentators said that Chieffy's crosses were too strong. Come on, mate! He was aiming for the far corner! Which again, brings us to...

-- Commentators.
    I respect the credentials of both commentators. But please, this is NOT the NBA. Would it be too much for them to first listen to Martin Tyler do his stuff? Now he is a pro.

    It is absolutely unacceptable that they do not know the names of the Mongolia players. Do your homework! Come on.

    It is again, perfectly unacceptable that they do not know who was substituted for Simon Greatwich. As a matter of fact, I don't think they knew Simon was substituted until he got the ball in midfield and they happend to notice his presence.

    Lastly, "there is no space to make bwelo??" So, how would you rate Jason Sabio's bato of the ball?

-- Ad boards got in the way of Anton's monster throw ins in the first half. 
      Surely, you do not disrupt one of your team's weapons at the expense of corporate sponsors. Or would you?

-- Play acting by the Mongolians.
   But the Younghusbands should NOT be spared from criticism. Acting petulantly and always imploringly looking at the refs. Come on, boys! Play on. 

-- Imperative to note that both goals came very late at the end of each half. Tiring defense to blame? The second goal came from very very sloppy Mongolian defending. They thought play was stopped, and hence did not tackle the ball from Jason Sabio.

Also, we scored both goals, with great difficulty against 10 men. Not a good omen to take to Ulan Bator.

-- Jason Sabio is strong! 
Using his size, he can be a match for any attack. Is it me, or is Rob Gier slow to chase balls down? With Aly joining the attack, he is usually the last one defending, and his lack of pace was exposed.

-- De Jong! 
WTF were you thinking with those wayward passes??? And getting dispossessed at very dangerous areas. Nigel won't be too impressed.

-- Philippines given a dose of its own medicine.
   This game was where we took on the role of Indonesia and Mongolia took on the role of the Philippines. 

-- Positive notes :
   Growing and steady interest in football. No prawn sandwich brigades here, please. 
   Jason Sabio. Strong in defense, quick, and a monster throw. One for the future, if not the present.
   Strong attacking intent. The crossbar denies Ian again. Their goalkeeper worked overtime. But the intent was there, definitely. Good signs.   

MAN of the MATCH : Chieffy Caligdong. 
The goal that relieved the pressure. BUT more than that, he was a constant menace in the left flank, sending in cross after cross. 

GOAT of the MATCH : Jason de Jong.
Tough as nails tackling, yes. But this was right after he gave the ball away. Of course he had to tackle tough, otherwise the ball he gave away could have lead to a one on one with Neil.

Side Comments : Ian Araneta's "I am gonna punch you right now!" face in the second half, when the Mongolian keeper went down on Chieffy's 'challenge'. Some trash talking down there. (how they understand each other is beyond me) Cool lang, Smiling Assassin! 

Side Comments 2 : Would've been nice to see Jason Sabio on for de Jong, with Aly shifting to CM (his position at club level). Would  be interesting to see him partnering with Simon, pulling the strings in midfield. Simon seems the more cerebral midfielder, as opposed to brother Chris who would push forward a lot more. Sabio would cover with Gier at the back.

Lastly, I leave you with this gem. Can't get enough of it! Bravo Chieffy!
Lest you guys forget, he shows the world what his last name is.
Go Azkals!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Power and Responsibility

Peter Parker's Uncle Ben once said : 

With great power comes great responsibility.

The Azkals have power in their hands. Or to put it literally, in their collective feet. 

The power to catapult football even further into the Filipinos consciousness. The power to unite the country for 90 minutes in the football pitch. The power to galvanize Filipinos in the face of rising crime, missing government money, reproductive health issues and the President's Porsche.

Let us not waste this glorious chance.

It is 36 hours from kickoff as of this writing. While we fans don't exactly expect you to live like monks trapped in a monastery in Siberia, we at least expect this one thing from you : FOCUS.

Focus on the job at hand.

In donning that Mizuno Home Kit, you have a responsibility to do the country proud on the pitch. But more importantly, remember that you are now representing the Republic of the Philippines. 

Make us proud, azkals!
On and off the pitch.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Great Expectations

Great Expectations

When Philippines Men’s National Football Team Captain Alexander Charles Luis Borromeo leads the team out to the pitch on the evening of February 9, 2011 in Panaad, Bacolod, he will feel an unprecedented roar and support never before heard of for Philippine football.

The thunderous roar and applause he and the other members of the starting eleven will hear, will be ones usually reserved in these shores for boxing heroes, billiards players, and with alarming infrequency nowadays, basketball stars. Accustomed to the jeering boos and taunts of opponents’ fans and the indifference of majority of our countrymen, these cheers from the appreciative crowd will indeed be music to the Azkals ears.

The birth of Philippine football was in the year 1907, but it might have well been reborn the night of December 2, 2010 in Hanoi, Vietnam when Chris Greatwich scored the equalizer against Singapore. With a penchant for the dramatic, both on and off the pitch, he described that the game against The Lions “..could be a watershed moment for Philippine football.” Well, it turned out to be the understatement of the year.

After nearly one and a half months of no on-field football action, we arrive at the threshold of the next Azkal game, where we will finally have home field advantage. The one home game we so craved and were deprived of last December.

This time. the mighty Mongolia awaits. Ranked 182 by FIFA (Philippines is ranked 153), on paper this should be an easy game. Toughened very recently by 2 Bung Karnos, 2 My Dinhs, 1 Thien Truong, 3 Kaohsiungs and countless UMaks, we should be fine. The core of the team is back. The spine of the side is still intact, coming back, and raring to go. From Neil Etheridge between the sticks to Aly Borromeo, Anton del Rosario, Ray Jonsson and Rob Gier at the back to James Younghusband, Chieffy Caligdong and Jason de Jong at midfield, to our two strikers, Phil Younghusband and Ian Araneta. Further good news : Young blood is being infused, a more experienced coach is at the helm.

But make no mistake about it, we should not treat this as a walk in the Panaad Park, if you may.

The loss of our top scorer in the 2010 Suzuki Cup and experienced international Chris Greatwich is a blow. His influence and experience on and off the pitch leaves a void in the middle of the park and in the dressing room. The arrival of a new coach barely 1 month before the game doesn’t exactly give him a very long time to prepare. More so because he has yet to even see in his very own eyes how our foreign based players play. Even more so because he wants to change the team to a more attacking side.

The need to have more attacking options is pointedly very obvious. We have not scored in the last 3 games, spanning 270 minutes of football. Having a solid defence, keeping it tight and midfield and hitting teams on the counter may work, but it has its own limitations, especially when we are chasing the game . As can be seen in the games against Indonesia, we cannot just dump the ball to the right wing for Phil Younghusband to take on 3 defenders. Lionel Messi, he is not. At least, not yet. Relying on Anton del Rosario’s long throw- ins to the box will only get us so far.

But exactly how you transform Greece in December to become Brazil in February is no mean feat.

The desire to play like Arsenal, as suggested by some, while admirably noble in its intention, forebodes defeat of catastrophic proportions if not done right. If every team played like Arsenal and Barcelona, we will have entertaining football all right, with fantastic results.

If unprepared though, opposing teams with discipline will expose cracks at the back and hit back at us with impunity. It takes time to build a successful attacking side. Especially for a team which built its success on being a successful defensive side. And February 9 may be a time too soon for us.

That said, whatever the team tactics and strategy, it is absolutely imperative that we win in Panaad. And hopefully, win comfortably. We cannot take a very slim advantage (or heaven forbid, a defeat) and risk capitulation against Mongolia in Ulan Bator. Set in an unfamiliar setting, and in an unfamiliar climate, our dog skin might not be thick enough to withstand the cold of the Mongolian winter and the heat of the Mongolian team’s pressure. We cannot risk it. We cannot afford to look at their ranking at be complacent. Remember that we were ranked even worse than that (189) as recently as May 2008.

Another factor to consider is that we are no longer an unknown entity, the anonymous team making up the numbers. The Azkals cannot rely on the surprise factor anymore. For good or bad, gone are the days when no one would give us a second look while doing their scouting reports.

The fact of the matter is, we have not won a game when the opponent did not take us for granted. As a matter of fact, we have even not scored a goal against opponents who scouted us, and took a very close look at our azkal scalp.

After getting results against Singapore and Vietnam, we may be considered unlucky not to have scored against Myanmar. However, the game against Indonesia proved that it would indeed take more than luck for us to have scored there. We were found out by the Indonesians, and we had no answer.

The last two aforementioned teams prepared against us and did not underestimate us, which, considering the attention Philippine football has been getting, is something we should grow more and more accustomed to from here on in.

Meantime, for the expectant azkal fan, destiny awaits. Be it the diehard football fan or the new convert, everyone is waiting with bated breath for  February 9. Airline Tickets have been booked, hotel rooms have been blocked off, and leaves have been filed.

The checklist will have been ticked off one by one :
Vuvuzela? Check.
Replica Home Jersey? Check.
Scarves? Check.
Face Paint? Check.
Philippine flag draped over my shoulders? Check.

Are the fans ready for the game against Mongolia? You bet.

Are the team and the coaching staff ready? They better be.

The Philippines, nay, the World is waiting.

Let’s go, Azkals!
Go get ‘em!

*This article first appeared in The Bleachers' Brew by Rick Olivares on February 5, 2011.
*photo from Anton del Rosario’s Facebook Fan Page

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Homeless World Cup Jersey

Got my Homeless World Cup Jersey today, delivered to my doorstep by no less than Homeless World Cup Team Philippines members Abdula and Hammid Pasion. 

Yup, they are twins! 

And although they aren't part of the team that will see action in Paris this August 2011, they will act as coaches and trainers to the team.

They are also members of the club Kaya FC, which counts among its members Azkal captain Aly Borromeo and Anton del Rosario. They have a game today at Ascom Field in Taguig, Makati.

Let us support their cause! 
Their website is
I really like the jersey, it has patch of the Philippine flag in front, Team Philippines patch at the right, and Homeless World Cup Paris 2011 patch at the left. These are all patches, and not printed on the screen. Did I also mention that you can have your number printed at the back?

Contact person for the shirts and their 2011 Calendar is Reah Medenilla.
You can call her @ 0919 676 1388 or email orders at

Supporting a good cause, and promoting football all in one?
Count me in!

Friday, February 4, 2011


'Too much hype on Azkals tiff' | The Philippine Star >> News >> Sports:

Hype is defined by wiktionary as : 

hype (plural hypes)

  1. Promotion or propaganda; especially, exaggerated claims.

For a sport previously bereft of any sort of hype whatsoever, would it be so much as to begrudge this group of mongrels some form of excitement from the general public?

IF the message was to tone down expectations, it is perfectly reasonable. After all, we aren't exactly expecting to cruise against Mongolia, aren't we? 

This is what Mr. Cojuangco said 

“I’m worried about the high expectations,”

“There seems to be too much publicity. But I hope that we win. We’re good. But we have to understand that we’re coming up from the bottom. I hope we don’t expect too much,”

Yes, we have the potential, but let us not expect too much. We have a new coach, and some of the players are just about to plane in, with just how many days away,”

Wrong choice of words, perhaps. Something about the word 'hype' connotes 'overrated', which leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

Let's just bring postive vibes and let our football do the talking, shall we?

NOW, regarding talks of us qualifying to the World Cup. THAT is hype. Best left for another post.


Addendum : See Captain Aly Borromeo's perfect riposte here, via Cedelf Tupas.
Couldn't have said it better, cap. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What is The Prawn Sandwich Brigade?

The great encyclopedia known to mankind aka Google, defines it as: 

A term coined by Roy Keane, the Manchester United (football club) Captain at the time. It refers to the 'fans' that go to watch United play at Old Trafford but who actually know nothing about football or United and are only there because United are a very successful team and they want to jump on the social bandwagon of supporting Manchester United.
They will hardly cheer the team on, barely watch the game and be more interested in eating the prawn sandwiches at half-time in the posh player's lounge or wherever (hence the name). They are a minority of United fans, it has to be added, but there are still quite a lot of them.
They will also usually be middle-class and social-climbers, and they are sometimes referred to as the P.S.B
Q. What do you call the glory-supporting, bandwagon-jumping-on socialites that know nothing about football and Manchester United but still go to the games?

A. The Prawn Sandwich Brigade.

In this light, may I all welcome you to the brigade. 

Me being a bandwagon Azkal fan myself. 

The difference is, probably 8 years of eating/living/breathing/drinking football prior to joining the bandwagon. And also the fact that as I said in the first post, this brigadier has no intention of jumping ship!

Many thanks to Mr. Rick Olivares, who inspired me to start this blog.
You are THE MAN!

The Galactic Azkals

Am I the only one who looks at a suspicious eye at the way we seem to suddenly scour the world for any footballer with half a pint of Filipino blood in them?

It is obviously great and important that we have these Fil-foreigners, seemingly coming from nowhere, knocking at our doors to suddenly want to play for us. It seems that the famed Filipino global diaspora has finally borne fruit, albeit in the arena of football. This however raises quite a few points of interest.

To label them ‘bandwagon players’ is every bit as harsh as labeling new Azkal fans (and football fans for that matter) as ‘bandwagon fans’. But you just couldn’t help but get this nagging feeling that somehow they weren’t as willing to be called up to the National Team when we were still struggling, or when the game wasn’t as popular here. That somehow, there was just this wee bit of hesitation to join a losing effort, or a lost cause, as it seemed for a time.

Which, of course, gives 10,000 respect points for the people who DID stick around. Both pure Filipinos and Fil-foreigners, alike. The mantra of ‘me against the world’ is not a new one. Successful managers have used this ‘siege mentality’ to galvanize players to form a winning team. And that winning team was almost in the form of the Azkals, as we bucked an indifferent and apathetic Filipino nation (pre-semis) and a hostile crowd (Bung Karno) to almost go to the Final.

To say that the bond between the players and the battle scars shared in the 2010 Suzuki Cup are priceless would be the understatement of the year. Even a thousand training sessions will never replicate the chemistry, cohesion and the shared bond between players and coaches.

Which brings us to this point in our fairly recent history.

It is understandable, nay, perfectly justifiable to send in a new German Coach. Given the impending support by the DFB. And perhaps to bring along his requisite Fil-German players. The lack of a coaching permit brings with it the perfect excuse.

It just doesn’t seem right.

I don’t recall the Dutch FA punching the speed dial to van Marwijk to give him the boot, not after he just lead the Oranje to an unexpected runner up finish. Did anyone really think Joachim Low was in any danger of being sacked? His German team didn’t make it to the final!

The PFF has its reasons, of course. And this falls under the category of ‘Football is Football’, whatever it means.

Secondly, the second comings of the German versions of the Younghusbands have me a wee bit worried. Local-based players have been marginalized as it is. It may be that they have the same level of talent, but not the same level of training and exposure. But what does it say if you train, week in, week out in the Philippines. Be a star performer in the local UFL, and yet knowing at the back of your mind that even if you score hat-tricks every other game, your slot in the final roster is threatened by Fil-foreigners who just jetted in a week before the tournament?

Granted that this problem is not endemic to the Azkals. Team selection and team chemistry has and will always be a problem for National Team managers, who only have a few days with them before sending them out to the battlefield. Club and country have wrangled and will always be at odds regarding the releasing of players for international duty.

However, football is a team game, where teamwork plays a crucial role in its success. We do not just throw in 11 star players and expect them to win it all. Especially 11 star players who hardly know each other, and whose egos may fill the entire pitch. Real Madrid found that out the hard way. Manchester City is finding out now. I hope the Azkals won’t have to go this same route. A sound and proper approach should be put in place, and perhaps not just a wanton selection of Fil-foreigners. We all agree, at the end of the day, talent is still talent. But not talent for the sake of talent. There are 11 different positions in the football pitch. And the beauty of the game is there are different roles to play in every position. The trick is getting people to perform together as one in the team. Fil-foreigners or Filipinos.

The 12th position and thus the 12th player on the team is the PFF.
Bottom line, we hope that the powers that be in Philippine Football know what they are doing. There’s unprecedented interest in the sport in general and in the Azkals.

Consider that the last game played by the Azkals was on December 19, 2010. And on January 11, 2011 was just the first day of practice. Yet social networking sites and media have been constantly barking out news items with primetime news airing clips of the training session. The training session!

Lastly, we would do well to avoid the mistake of Vietnam in the 2010 Suzuki Cup. Being burdened by the heavy expectation might be a millstone around the Azkals necks. After all, teams would know us and would have prepared mightily for us. The days of the Azkals being an unknown entity are gone, at least for now.

The pressure to win on home soil might be to our own undoing. We would do well to feed off the positive energy from our fellow countrymen instead.

James Younghusband said that in order to sustain the football momentum, ‘We should keep on winning.’ Do just that, Jimbo, please.

But with emphasis on ‘we’.

* This article first appeared in The Bleachers' Brew by Rick Olivares on January 12, 2011.

Our HOME team comes to fore.

I could never fully fathom why people proudly wear kits of other countries.

Club colors, yes. Koreans play for Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, so I can buy that.

But to see a fair-skinned (clearly Filipino-Chinese) fella wearing the canary yellow of Brazil, or a very clearly Asian looking guy wearing Ghana’s colors?

Yep, I’m guilty on both counts.

Of course our country has a football team. Every country on this planet has to have a football team. To not have one should be considered one of the seven deadly sins.

Problem is, do we even know we have a National Team? Do they even exist? Hardly ever news comes out anyway. Does anyone care at all, save for a select few?

After the 1-13 thrashing we got from Indonesia a few years back, and countless humiliations before that…., the answer has to be NO. Mercifully, we were spared from further punishment by our non-qualification for the 2008 Suzuki Cup. One really has to be a masochist of unimaginable degree to be caught wearing the Philippines colors on your back.

Cue the 2010 Suzuki Cup, and said mongrels rise to prominence. For football loving fans like me, it is a godsend. It is like rain after 4 months of El Nino.

The attention is nothing short of miraculous, given our very masochistic penchant for basketball.

But the results, thankfully, are not in any way miraculous. It is a product of a selfless benefactor, half Pinoys willing to join the project, and full blooded Pinoys willing to work with them. It may seem good now, but you can only imagine how the situation was when it started.

No one cared. Not the general media, certainly not the general public. Fil-foreign players wondered what the heck they got themselves into. Local footballers knew, of course. But they themselves hoped for the best and expected the worst.

In this environment, our Azkals thrived to qualify for the 2010 Suzuki Cup, and booked a place to the semis.

There is this very distinct fear of mine, that this is all a mirage. A one-off. A fluke. And I am not talking just of the results. My fear is that once results do not go our way, attention to the Azkals would fall by the wayside.

I sincerely hope not. I am doing my best to help promote football, and judging from social network feeds, so are a lot of others. We all love winners, but my thinking is, we have to love football, win or lose. We have to love football even if the next generation Azkals look more like Ronaldinho than Younghusband. To do this, we have to start introducing the game, earlier and to more places.

I have been lucky enough to watch the last two World Cups live, and all I can say, the wave of patriotism is certainly something we could certainly use. The coming together of one nation is so majestic that it gives me goose bumps every time I remember it. In Africa, and certainly in Europe, people live, eat and breathe football. It would be a stretch to say the same here in the Philippines, but the two legs of the Azkals semis was certainly a start. Here’s calling to the mainstream media not to drop coverage once some results do not go our way.

I could name all the German, Brazilian and England team’s starting 11 plus their bench players and their coaching staff, but do I know anyone from our own Philippine team? Two months ago, I did not.

Now I do.

Did I jump into the football bandwagon? No, been cheering on the beautiful game for a good 8 years now.

Did I jump into the Azkals Bandwagon?

Absolutely. And I have absolutely no intention of jumping ship.

* This article first appeared in The Bleachers' Brew by Rick Olivares on December 31, 2010.