Thursday, March 17, 2011

A disappointing loss but still mission accomplished for the Azkals

When was the last time you saw a nationally televised live football game featuring the Philippine team wearing thermal kits, playing on an icy turf amidst a snow-capped mountain backdrop?

That's right. Never. Up until their March 15 match versus Mongolia in Ulan Bator. It was another landmark event in Philippine football history. The 2 goal advantage that the Azkals had during the first leg held in Bacolod, plus the early James Younghusband goal 3 minutes into the game, were enough to negate the two goals scored by Mongolia, who went on to win the second leg 2-1.

Despite the loss, the RP team deserves applause for gallantly playing and holding their own despite the biting cold, a more aggressive wave of Mongolian attacks, and a partial Mongolian crowd.  Critics can yak all they want about how the Azkals should have won the game or how sloppy the defense was. But they should also realize that it is difficult enough to score goals in football on a bright sunny day, much more in sub-zero conditions. When you are used to playing in a tropical country, the body's reaction and response time becomes slower in colder weather, and natural movement is also hindered by thermal clothing.

(photo from, credited to Coolbuster)
Humble in defeat, members of the Philippine team vowed to play better in the group stage of the AFC Challenge Cup (March 21-25) where they are bracketed with host country Myanmar, Bangladesh and Palestine.

Unlike the freezing weather conditions in Mongolia, the Azkals will play in a more favorable and familiar tropical climate in Myanmar. Neil Etheridge will also be back as the starting goalkeeper, as well as defender Rob Gier.

Let us again show the Azkals our full support and pray for their victory in the AFC Challenge Cup!

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