[April Fools] Philippine Football League delayed to 2018

The upcoming Philippine Football League will be delayed to January 2018 according to a source in the Philippines Football Federation. The league was slated to start this April but was moved because of a major issue.

“We encountered a roadblock for the opening match,” said an anonymous source inside the federation. “We want to make this a very good opening for the league but met an unexpected challenge along the way,” the source added.

An interview with the interested teams also welcomed the delay of the league. “We cant move forward unless this problem is resolved,” said a team manager who requests for anonymity. “I mean we love the sport and we play football week in and week out and we but the federation needs to resolve the issue first before we start the league,” the team manager added.

Unconfirmed reports say that the Federation was planning an opening show in the grandest scale with song and dance numbers from top Filipino celebrities and international artists prior to the opening match. The opening however hit a snag when two teams fought over Lisa Soberano as the team muse in opening day. The issue is largely blamed to the actress’ manager whose a verbal commitment was secured by one team, but offered Lisa to another after cash was offered on the spot.

“It’s very ugly. I’m not talking about Lisa, I’m talking about situation” said the Philippines Football Federation source. “The teams have gone to court and hopefully it will be resolved on time for the opening. I hope it doesn’t reach the Supreme Court. Lisa is a very very beautiful actress and we want her to be in our opening day”. The actress nor the manager could not be reached for comment.

The Philippine Football League is not related to the Philippines Football League of the Philippine Football Federation. The Philippines Football Federation is a federation of American Football enthusiasts in the Philippines and must not be confused with the Philippine Football Federation that is involved with Soccer.

 

 

Azkals vs Harimau: A tale of contrasting fortunes

The Philippine Azkals and Harimau Malaysia are set to square off for a friendly on March 22 in preparation for the 2019 Asian Cup qualifying with both teams coming into the match with contrasting fortunes.

Some luck for the Philippines

It’s no secret that Philippine club football is in a temporary hiatus, with the Philippine Football Federation leadership preparing for its forthcoming National League, putting the domestic game to a halt. The Azkals are lucky however because a good portion of its core players are participating in the AFC Cup for Ceres-Negros and Global removing doubts on fitness issues brought about by the extended break. Both clubs have been playing at a high level regularly since February and players from these clubs are expected to be favorites in the starting eleven.

It also helps that some players are coming in from abroad where fitness and timing is not an issue. Neil Etheridge and Daisuke Sato are coming in from Europe where the football season is at its peak. Javier Patino and Mike Ott are also coming in from China and Thailand whose leagues have already commenced. The rest of the local players will have some catching up to do on their local counterparts. Loyola’s James and Phil Younghusband, Kaya’s Kenshiro Daniels, and Stallion’s Fitch Arboleda have

Issues for Malaysia

The Malaysians however have a different story with domestic and International issues putting preparations for the Asian Cup qualifying on-hold. The Football Association of Malaysia will hold a major election which will include the presidency of Malaysia’s football governing body. A win by favorite Tunku Sultan Ismail, owner of Malaysian powerhouse Johor Darul Ta’zim, could mean a big change for the national squad.

Reports say that current Malaysia Coach Ong Kim Swee could be on his way out with the possibility of a former JDT Coach coming in to manage the squad. Many of JDTs stars have prematurely retired from international football in 2016, following complaints on training methods, but the retirements were largely viewed as political move from the Johorian club in protest of the current FAM administration. Their return and the coaching change could be a big boost for Malaysian football but will somewhat peg the national team back to square one in terms of preparation.

The recent diplomatic tensions between Malaysia and North Korea have forced the Malaysian government to ban the Malaysian squad from playing their March 28 match in Pyongyang. The banhas forced the AFC to move the match to a neutral venue with the date set back to June 8.

What’s at stake

For the Philippines, cohesion leading into next weeks opening match with Nepal is the target for home squad. The schedule between the international break and the AFC Cup has been tight leaving the players with less time to rest and prepare against Malaysia. With players dishing out good performances in the regional stage, the Azkals would be fighting for their place in the starting eleven.

For Malaysia, the current team is determined to get a win for their Coach who has been a true professional in dealing with the current issues and is still grieving with a loss in his family. The match will also serve as an audition of the current squad should changes occur in the new FAM administration.

The recent use of FIFA rankings as a seeding tool in World Cup and Asian Cup qualifying by the AFC would also mean that Asian teams could no longer take International friendlies for granted. A win is necessary as a it could spell the difference in the qualifying draws for future tournaments.

Both teams last played to two 0-0 draws in 2014 with matches held in Selayang and Cebu. The two matches also served as debuts for Thomas Dooley and Ong Kim Swee as coaches of their respective teams.

The match will be played on Wednesday (Mar 22) with kickoff scheduled at 730PM. There will be no local tv coverage but a livestream will be made available at the PFF website.

Felda United Scouting Report

Introduction

Photo from Felda United Wikepedia Page

FELDA United was established in 2007 by the Federal Land Development Authority, a Malaysian government entity. Also known as “The Fighters”, the club has been in and out of the Malaysian Premier League and the Malaysian Super League since its existence with its best finish in last year’s top flight placing second to JDT in the MSL.

FELDA was at the top of the table most of the first half of the league but JDT bounced back in the latter half earning 58 points in a historic unbeaten season with FELDA producing 43. Malaysian pundits declared at the start of the season that FELDA United will have difficulty emulating last year’s finish because of a coaching and foreign player change. Mohamad Nik is the caretaker manager after appointed coach Azmi Mohamed left after the club’s third game.

Players to Watch
Foreign Players
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) employs a 3+1 foreign player rule where 3 Non-Asians and 1 Asian player can be included in the line-up of different clubs. This allows the development of local talent within the country and the continent.

#5 Moutaz Jounaidi (Defender)
The Lebanese defender has represented his country many times in international level and is currently the main centerback for FELDA United. The 30-year old is very experienced using his height (1.88m) to command control at the back. Pairs well with either Nor Fazly or Shukor Adan for the central defense.

#8 Lucas Cano (Forward)
The Argentinean striker is currently on loan to Felda United. Almost breaching 6 feet and just 21years of age, the lanky striker has already scored four times for the squad this season and will be the target man for the visiting side.

#23 Gastón Cellerino (Forward)
The veteran striker has been a journeyman in South America, Europe, and the United States. The 30-year old has come off the bench in both AFC Cup matches playing in either striker or winger. Standing at 1.85m, this Argentinean forward will be another threat for the Malaysian outfit.

#8 Zah Rahan Krangar (Midfielder)
The Liberian midfielder has been a mainstay of FELDA and was instrumental in their winning record last year. The 32-year old has played for his national team and was a long time player in the Indonesian circuit scoring 60-plus goals in ten years. The diminutive player (1.65m) moved to FELDA in 2014 and has scored plenty since.

Local Players
#9 Norsharul Idlan (Forward)
The 30-year old veteran is one of FELDA’s key signings this season. He brings himself a wealth of experience in the top flight and International experience as one of Malaysa’s better strikers. Norsharul was one of the most sought after players during his prime.

#7 Stuart Wark (Midfielder)
The Scottish-Malaysian midfielder played for JDT last year with him trying his luck with FELDA in the current season. Influential in the midfield using his strength to his advantage, the defensive midfielder has started both AFC Cup games.

#27 Hadin Azman (Midfielder)
One of Malaysia’s talented youngsters at the age of 22, the midfielder can play either side of the wing and even attack from the middle. A former youngster in JDT who took his chance in FELDA for a starting role in 2015, he has since thrived in his attacking roles with 9 goals in 30+ appearances.

#12 Shukor Adan (Midfielder/Defender)
Shukor Adan is one of Malaysia’s most popular players. Having played a while until his international retirement in 2014, this 37-year old has been regarded to be one of the best defensive midfielders in Malaysian history with 50 caps to his name. Currently he plays both centre mid and central defence for FELDA.

Possible Formation & First XI

Strengths
Very good offensive awareness by attacking players
Very good counterattack

Weaknesses
Many of the local players are past their prime
Inconsistent backline

Opportunities
Injuries or experiments have cause different backline combinations
Yellow card situation (4 yellows)
Offensive approach by away team (Must win for Felda)

Threats
Improving run of form
Desperate football (Must win for Felda)

Tactics

Felda has scored twice in the tournament with both goals coming from long range. Opportunistic strikes that punished both opposing keepers. The Malaysian outfit is naturally a good counter attacking team but have some difficulty building up against good defensive teams.

Felda United will approach the game with a 4-2-3-1 to maximize the efficiency of #10 Zah Krangar behind the striker #8 Lucas Cano. The Malaysian squad did well against Hanoi by scoring early but conceded late in injury time. Their tall strikers as the defensive target have allowed their midfielders some creativity in the midfield. Zah Krangar, might be small, but he has been a good engine up front with his mind off defensive duties that is taken care of by Stuart and Syahid.

Only one of the Argentine strikers are used in most of the games as they accommodate the highly paid veteran Norsharul on the left and young player Hadin on the right. Things might be different in the next game as either one of the wings might be given up ion the attempt to win the game. Expect FELDA to press well and attempt to get an early goal.

The back four is a tricky subject. The usual centerback pairing is the Lebanese Mootaz with veteran Norfazly but injuries might have forced Felda to use Captain Shukor Adan as centerback. FELDA have plenty of options for their wingbacks but they are believed to be available for MD3. The central defense seems to be the weakest part of FELDA and they must be tested comprehensively.

With the current AFC Cup format, FELDA has no choice but to force a win against Ceres in order to keep their hopes of progression alive. Hard pressing is expected from the visiting side including a high line which the home team should attempt to capitalize.

Highlights

Tampines vs Felda (Highlights)

Felda vs JDT (Full Match)

Felda vs Hanoi (Highlights)

AFC Cup Preview: JDT v Global, Ceres v Felda

Its Philippines versus Malaysia this week in the 2017 AFC Cup and nothing but fireworks are expected in both ties. Johor Darul Ta’zim will host Global Cebu in Johor on March 14 while Ceres-Negros will face FELDA United in Bacolod the day after.

JDT v Global

Malaysia Super League Champions Johor Darul Ta’zim will meet United Football League Champions Global Cebu FC in a Group F tie on Tuesday. It will be the first meeting of both squads in AFC competition with the top spot for Group F will be at stake. Global is still perfect after two matches highlighted by their recent 2-0 win against Boeung Ket Ankor in Phnom Penh. JDT played its reserve unit in match day 2 and settled for a 1-1 draw with ten men against Magwe in Yangon and the Malaysian champions are out to recoup lost points in this tight race to the top.

With JDT expected to bring out its best eleven, interesting individual battles will be seen throughout the match. Philippine International Misagh Bahadoran and Trinidadian Darryl Roberts and will have to deal with the defensive partnership of Malaysia’s Junior Eldstal and Brazilian Marcos Antonio. Former Azkal Paul Mulders will be pitted against former Malaysia Captain Safiq Rahim in a key battle in midfield. Global’s Amani Aguinaldo and Brazilian Wesley dos Santos will have a tough task ahead against Hazwan Bakri and Argentinian Gabriel Guerra.

JDT last played a Philippine squad in Kaya FC with a 7-2 trashing at Larkin stadium in the Round of 16 of the 2016 AFC Cup. Global is keen to improve its record in the AFC Cup against Malaysian teams after getting double 0-0 draws against Pahang in the 2015 edition. Though pundits have marked JDT as the favorites in this match, Global is keen for an upset in front of the Johor fans. The match will kickoff at 845pm in Johor.

Ceres vs Felda

Ceres-Negros FC will host Felda United in Match Day 3 of Group G in the AFC Cup. Ceres has just come-off from a 5-0 win against Tampines Rovers which elevated them into first spot in the group. Felda almost came off with its first win against Hanoi at the Shah Alam stadium but the Vietnamese squad came up with a last minute goal for the 1-1draw. Both squads qualified for the group stages of the tournament after placing second in their respective leagues last year.

Ceres has had a history of tough matches against Malaysian clubs especially against Selangor in last year’s AFC Cup. Their opening match in Bacolod saw Selangor scoring first with a brilliant free kick from Hafiz Kamal until Ceres equalized late with a Stephan Schrock strike. Both teams played the second leg in the Selayang Municipal Stadium where Ceres forced a 0-0 draw which consequently allowed them to qualify for the Round of Sixteen of the 2016 AFC Cup.

The tie will feature a new challenge for both squads in all areas of the pitch. Fernando Ceres’ Spaniards Rodriguez and Bienvenido Maranon will slug it out with central defenders in Lebanese Mootaz Jounaidi and Malaysian legend Shukor Adan. Manny Ott will have to deal with Scottish-Malaysian defensive midfielder Stuart Wark in the midfield. Argentinean striker Lucas Cano and Liberian Zah Krangar will be a handful for Carli de Murga and Super Herrera.

The Bacolod squad will gun for a second straight victory but the visitors are fully aware that a win is the only way for them to reach the next round of the tournament. A capacity crowd is again expected at the Panaad Stadium to support the home team. The match will be aired at 7PM on Wednesday.

Photos from AFC Cup/Lagardere Sports

UAAP Football: Refereeing at its worst

UST and DLSU played to a so-so 2-2 draw last Sunday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium but the stars of the game were not the goalscorers nor the shot stoppers, they were the referees.

college-football2

Photo from Pam Puri /GOARCHERS.COM

It was the most atrocious refereeing performance I have seen in a long time. Might even be the worst if my memory serves me right. I was informed before the match that the set of referees in the UAAP was not the first choice. PFF referees, the original preference, were pulled out in the last minute and in place were another group of referees that I need not mention.

Fast forward to the game, the half finished 1-1 with UST largely owning the action with more chances in the counterattack. To be honest, I was already beginning to zone out as both teams were already becoming very predictable on the pitch. DLSU would try to go over the top in attack but were largely tamed by the UST defense who would then automatically initiate a counterattack to the opposite end. The refereeing was largely acceptable until after the 3rd goal was scored in the 50th minute (For the sake of argument, I shall be describing scenario in an agnostic manner).

Scenario 1: Player A was called for a foul on Player B after Player B fell down in an aerial challenge. It was dumbfounding because Player A 1) was way taller than player b, 2) stood his ground jumped vertically in his place, 3) Player B had no chance nor a play and bounce off player A  due to size disparity.

This scenario was followed by a foul throw, non-calls on physicals plays (kick,clip,push,etc) that didn’t warrant an advantage calls, and a referee half-raising his flag for offside with no offensive player receiving an offside pass. At this point you would only think that the referees were either lazy or unfit leading to these non-calls, but they were surely tested minutes later in Scenario 2.

Player from Team A broke free in the right wing and rushed to the opposing half. His run was stopped by the Player B with some sweet nothings given between the two just after the play. Moments later, Player B confronted the Player A and unleashed a headbutt which brought Player A to the ground. The foul happened in front of the linesman and at the line of sight of the main referee. Player A’s teammates rushed towards Player B with both benches going out of their technical area. Before issuing a card, the main referee consulted the linesman on the play and then issued a yellow card to Player B. That’s correct, a yellow for striking.

Which leads us to Scenario 3, Player A2 in an act of desperation lunged forward Player B2 with a high two-footed tackle. Player A2 missed the ball with Player B luckily evading the challenge. No card nor warning was given to Player A2.

With all the scenarios considered, a suspension of the game officials would be the bare minimum action with regard to the game. It is inexcusable for these referees to lose control of the match and fail at the most basic calls. An example has to be made for the whole lot of referees to understand that collegiate football is a serious tournament and not just a chore where they could make some money.

This problem is not limited to these referees as multiple coaches have already complained of the quality of the officiating. One even mentioned in a social media post to the tune that these referees are using the tournament as a training ground to the expense of the participating teams . Immediate action is necessary in order to improve the quality in the remaining group games.

Since the league is going to the second half, the UAAP committee will also need to try to re-educate this set of referees where possible. If budget permits, a weekly seminar/review on the rules of the game (based on televised games) can be done in the second round. This will help the league in the long term if these officials are to return in the future tournaments. Also, these set of referees should not be considered in the final four. It is better for the league to bring in FIFA accredited football referees in the final phase of the tournament to ensure the integrity of the game.

With the PFF Womens League on a break, the UAAP is currently the highest tier of league football in the country. It deserves the best officiating this country has to offer and nothing less. The players should be the stars, not the referees.

Hanoi FC Scouting Report

 

Photo from Hanoi FC Facebook Page

The club formerly known as Hanoi T&T has been one of the most dominant clubs in Vietnamese football, finishing no less than second for the last seven years in the top flight, winning it three times. Hanoi qualified to the AFC Cup as the 2016 champions of V.League 1 which also allowed them to participate in the preliminary rounds of the AFC Champions League (ACL). The club been participating in the ACL preliminaries and playoff the past few years but has always fell short of the group stage when facing tougher opposition in the final playoff match.

Vietnamese clubs have never dropped back to the AFC Cup after near misses in the ACL because of its higher ranking. It was only till this year when Hong Kong overtook Vietnam in the seeding which allowed the Vietnamese clubs to participate in the group stages of the AFC Cup.

The Hanoi club got a taste of Asian football when it met Kitchee in the preliminaries of the ACL last January. Hanoi FC was leading 1-0 ten minutes from time but Kitchee got back to force a win in extra time. The 2016 V.League 1 champions are currently third in the domestic table, just two points behind erstwhile Than Hoa, after being nicked by SHB Da Nang for a draw in their last match.

Players to Watch

Foreign Players
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) employs a 3+1 foreign player rule where 3 Non-Asians and 1 Asian player can be included in the line-up of different clubs. This allows the development of local talent within the country and the continent.
#77 Alvaro Silva (Defender)
The Filipino-Spanish centerback has been in Asia for the last three seasons with stints in Kuwait and Korea before moving to Hanoi this season. Silva has played for the Azkals for a couple of games and has not returned since. The defender is tall and agile but chemistry with his new team is still an issue.

#20 Gonzalo Marronkle (Forward)
The Argentinean striker has been with Hanoi since 2009 and has figured in all of its recent success. This 32-year old is known for his goal scoring ability, aside from his height (1.92m), and is a threat from anywhere in the box.

#99 Loris Arnaud (Forward)
The French striker is a product of the PSG academy and has been a journeyman around France for the last few years. He is the third choice striker behind Gonzalo and Samson in Hanoi.

#8 Moses Oloya (Midfielder)
The Ugandan midfielder moved to Vietnam six years ago as a teenager and has since played in the country for five years and getting a stint in Russia in 2016. Now 24 years old, Oloya has signed for Hanoi and has been fighting for a slot in a very talented pool of midfielders. He is a versatile midfielder that can do both holding and attacking positions.

Local Players
#10 Nquyen Van Quyet (Forward)
One of the most recognizable faces in Vietnamese football, Van Quyet is a mainstay of the National Team being one of the most talented attacking players in the country. He can play as a striker, winger, and attacking midfielder with a preference to the right side of the pitch. Still young at 25, this player is the perfect complement for Hanoi’s foreign born strikers.

#7 Pham Thanh Luong (Midfield)
Do not underestimate him for his size (1.61m), Than Luong has already helped his country win the AFF Cup at the tender age of 20 with his pace and lethal finishing. Now 28, the Vietnam national team veteran is still a thorn in the left side of the midfield because of his unpredictability and knack on goal.
#19 Nguyen Quang Hai (Midfielder)
Nguyen Quang Hai is the future of Vietnamese football. At 19 years of age, he has shown the quality of being a versatile attacker and a very intelligent footballer. He is deployed on the left flank to make use of his preferred left foot.

#36 Hoang Vu Samson (Forward)
The Nigerian-born player acquired his Vietnamese citizenship in 2013 which allows him to play as a local for Hanoi. Initially playing as a striker, Samson is flexible enough to play in the midfield in this loaded Hanoi attack. He has won scoring titles in V.League 1 and has the highest scoring percentage in the league in the last few years. He is tall, strong, fast, and has a very high rating in scoring awareness.

Possible Formation & First XI

hanoi-fc

Strengths
Deep pool of players with low average age
Quality local players (National, U23, U19)
Familiarity of foreign attacking players (>5 years)

Weaknesses
New foreign center back (Alvaro)
Poor run of form (Loss-Draw-Draw)

Opportunities
Overconfidence by Coaching Staff as seen on Champions League

Threats
Hanoi players in shape (7 games played)
Bad results means AFC Cup game is a must win
Cold Temperature in Hanoi

Tactics

The Hanoi Coach will bring in his best 11 in response to the AFC Champions League defeat where he tried to use more young players in the match. He might not play the French striker (Arnaud) because of poor form and the presence of Gonzalo. The 20-year old player Duy Manh will be chosen over Moses in the defensive midfield as he is considered as one of Vietnam’s best at his tender age.

Hanoi plays 4-1-4-1 defensively but somehow transitions to a flexible 4-3-3 offensively. The left and right midfielders are all interchangeable, Quang Hai 19 and Thanh Luong 11 on the left can switch as winger and attacking mid at any time with each other. Van Quyet 11 and Samson 39 can also interchange with themselves on the right. Expect a lot of creativity and passing in the midfield as and Thanh Luong and Van Quyet are the best players in Vietnam for their position. The veterean players including Samson have the freedom to break formation and attack, Quang Hai is usually the one left behind just because he is the younger player but he is a threat from distance as well.

The back four are very quick and disciplined to a certain limit. Hanoi is very resilient in the first clearances in danger areas but they are still very shaky. Alvaro and Dai Dong still have a lack of understanding that the Ceres attack can score from. They are good in individual defense but the weakness in their partnership is the second ball, especially with Dai Dong. The two wingbacks are young and needs to be tested throughout the match.
Hanoi will be expected to go on an all-out attack because of their highly technical players and deep bench. If the team is not careful, it will be an early 2-0 lead for the hosts given their early start in the season. The visiting team must be precise in their finishing to get a goal as chances will be few.

Squad List
No. Nationality Position Player Age Height National Team others
18 Vietnam GK Trần Anh Đức 25 1.8 –
30 Vietnam GK Nguyễn Văn Công 24 1.82 Vietnam U23
33 Vietnam GK Phí Minh Long 22 1.8 Vietnam
2 Vietnam DF Nguyễn Đại Đồng 30 – –
4 Vietnam DF Nguyễn Văn Dũng 22 1.74 Vietnam U21
5 Vietnam DF Nguyễn Văn Biển 31 1.73 Vietnam
7 Vietnam DF Sầm Ngọc Đức 24 1.7 Vietnam
13 Vietnam DF Trần Văn Kiên 20 – –
15 Vietnam DF Nguyễn Minh Hải 23 – Vietnam U20
16 Vietnam DF Nguyễn Thành Chung 19 – –
17 Vietnam DF Doan Van Hau 19 Vietnam U19
77 Philippines DF Álvaro Silva Linares 32 1.87 Azkals
89 Vietnam DF Đào Duy Khánh 23 1.83 Vietnam U23
6 Vietnam MF Đặng Văn Tới – – –
8 Uganda MF Moses Oloya 24 1.83 Russian League
11 Vietnam MF Phạm Thành Lương 28 1.61 Vietnam left + right
23 Vietnam MF Nguyễn Hải An 28 1.67 –
28 Vietnam MF Đỗ Duy Mạnh 20 1.8 Vietnam
29 Vietnam MF Phạm Đức Huy 22 1.73 Vietnam U23
74 Vietnam MF Trương Văn Thái Quý 19 1.71 Vietnam U19
88 Vietnam MF Đỗ Hùng Dũng – – Vietnam U23
9 Vietnam FW Phạm Văn Thành 22 1.75 Vietnam U21
10 Vietnam FW Nguyen Van Quyet 25 1.72 Vietnam right footed
19 Vietnam FW Nguyễn Quang Hải 19 1.64 Vietnam U23 left footed
20 Argentina FW Gonzalo Marronkle 32 1.92 Portugal League left footed
39 Vietnam FW Hoàng Vũ Samson 28 1.82 * Nigerian right footed
92 Vietnam FW Trịnh Duy Long – – –
98 Vietnam FW Hồ Minh Dĩ – – –
99 France FW Loris Arnaud 29 1.84

Global, Ceres face uphill climb to AFC Cup final

Filipino clubs Global FC and Ceres-Negros FC will have a more challenging path towards the final of Asia’s second-tier club football tournament after recent changes in its competition format.

ceres-global-ufl-cup-2016

The AFC Cup has since deviated from its usual east-west format to a new zonal one which will feature five different zones across Asia namely: West Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, ASEAN, and East Asia. West Asia and ASEAN Zones will have three groups while the rest will only have one each.  The new format also allows more teams to join the group stage, with this years competition having 34 teams and possibly stretching it to 36 in the future.

Next round qualification will also be different this year as the tournament will name Zonal winners who will move on to the latter rounds of the competition. With Global and Ceres both in the ASEAN groups, they will have to be the top teams of their group or be the best runner up of the three groups to qualify for the four-team ASEAN Zonal semi final.

The Filipino clubs will need to endure a two-legged zonal semifinal and another two-legged zonal final in order to win the ASEAN Zone, unlike other groups which only need to top the group stage to be declared zone winners. The West Asia Zone, which also has the groups, will also need a zonal semi-final and final but the West Asia winners have the incentive to go straight to the AFC Cup final.
afc-cup-2017-perfect pass

 

If winning the ASEAN Zone will be tough enough for the Pinoy squads, the Inter-Zone playoff will be another tough nut to crack as they will have to face the other well-rested zonal winners who would have played four games less. The Inter-Zone playoffs will entail another level of two-legged semifinal and final matches before the remaining AFC Cup finalist is declared.

For this years tournament, East Asia will have the shortest path to the tournament needing only to get results in 8 games to reach the final as they have only three participants in their group. They are followed by West Asia, Central Asia, and South Asia with 10 games while ASEAN will need to hurdle 14 games before doing so.

The lack of domestic competition will be a big challenge in Ceres and Global’s AFC Cup campaign as top squads from other ASEAN nations are already 5-6 games in their domestic campaigns. With the Philippines Football League still in the works, both teams need to shake their cobwebs fast to match the pace of their opponents. Kaya and Ceres’ good performance in AFC Cup group stages was attributed to both teams playing in the UFL Cup which started a few weeks before the AFC tournament last year.

Nevertheless, both teams will be eager to eclipse the historic round of 16 achievement of 2016. AFC Cup action starts on February 21 with Global facing Myanmar champions Magwe in Rizal Memorial while Ceres will travel to Vietnam to play juggernaut Hanoi FC.