Yokohama kicks off Football Cup

Yokohama Tire Sales Philippines, Inc. (YTSP) kicked off the Yokohama Football Cup last May 20 at the McKinley Hill Football Stadium in Taguig City. The Japanese tire brand extends its support to the local football scene with the two-day event that featured over a hundred teams of ten different age groups.

Yokohama has been the shirt sponsor for Chelsea Football Club the past two seasons with the north London club clinching the English Premier League title this 2016/2017 season.

Participating teams played a 7-a-side format with the age groups set on different schedules throughout the weekend. The 8 & 12-under teams opened the festivities Saturday morning with the Womens category closing the tournament on Sunday.

The only tire brand that produces its products in the country is looking to help Philippine football in their own way. “We are trying to somehow push more awareness for football in the Philippines” said Shawn Pamintuan, Marketing head of YTSP. “From this year and to the next few years, we would like to concentrate our efforts in supporting the football events in the Philippines,” Pamintuan added.

YTSP President Satoshi Hariyama highlighted the similar values in sports and in his company. “Sports have always been close to the heart of Yokohama. The effort and discipline that athletes put in to improve their skills can be likened to exacting dedication of Yokohama in consistently producing quality tires. We hope to highlight this similarity in supporting football in the Philippines.”

The event organized by CAN Sports saw at least a thousand spectators in opening day. Aside from the football, participants were also treated to mini-games in between their breaks. The same crowd is expected on the second day for the last day of the tournament.

Ceres-La Salle tops Group A with come from behind win against Green Archers United in UFL Cup

Ceres-La Salle FC overcame a one goal halftime deficit to win 4-1 against Green Archers United last May 23 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.  

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Second half strikes from Jeong Woo Lee, Bienvenido Maranon, Adrian Gallardo, and Jeffrey Christaens made the difference as the Bacolod squad officially tops Group A in the cup.

Its was United who made a difference early in the game when Robert Lopez-Mendy opened the scoring in the 4th minute.  The veteran broke away from the Ceres defense and score to the delight of his team.

The early goal opened up the game where both teams had their own chances in the first twenty minutes.  Bad news however came in the 22nd when Patrick Reichelt was subbed off by Camelo Tacusalme due to an apparent injury.  Reichelt has just returned after having a minor surgery to his foot in the mid-season.

The Bacolod squad were the slightly more dominant team the rest of the half as they secured half chances but were unable to convert.  The first half ended with United still having the one goal advantage.

Ceres picked up where they left off in the first half but the Archers were a tough nut to crack and did not allow an equalizer. It took one full hour and a substitute in Lee to level the game to one-a-piece as he outran the United defense. The Bacolod squad took note as newcomer Maranon added another after just one minute with an assist from fellow spaniard Adrian Gallardo.

The Archers almost pulled a leveler with a breakaway from Jimuel Ariola but GK Louis Casas stopped him just in time.  The busboys made it 3-1 in the 69th when Maranon returned the favor to setup Valdes for the clubs third goal.  Jeff Christaens made it 4-1 for Ceres after a great team effort with Kyum Son Cho to seal the deal for Ceres in the 81st.

Ceres outshines Bright Star FC in UFL Cup

Ceres-La Salle FC put on a scoring clinic when they beat a hapless Bright Star FC 14-0 in last nights 2015 UFL Cup Group A match at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. Substitute Lee Jeong Woo top scored with four goals while four other players registered a brace.

It started as early as the 4th minute when center back Valentine Kama scored with a volley off a rebound.  Adrian Gallardo’s initial free kick hit the bar and Kama was there to pounce on the goal.  Two minutes later, winger Jayson Panhay slammed it past the Bright Star keeper after collecting a delightful assist from fellow wing man Orman Okunaiya.

Gallardo joined the scoring in the 13th minute while Kama collected his second 3 minutes after to make it 4-0.  Jayson Panhay brought his A-game after showing Messi-esque techniques to ‘break the ankles’ of a Bright Star player.  Moments later, he added his second goal after slotting it near the far post on  a very tight angle.

The Bacolod squad showed superb team play in the 27th when Martin Steuble floated a pass to a rushing Panhay who unselfishly lays off to Gallardo who collected his second goal to make it 6-0 for Ceres.  Steuble also joined the scoring four minutes after with a thunderous shot from 20 yards out. Ceres closed out the half with their eight goal coming from Nate Burkey.

The Bus-men were relentless as second half substitutes continued the onslaught for the UFL League leaders.  The Korean connection in Lee Jeong Woo and Cho Kyum Son paid dividends as the latter supplied the former to make it 9 for Ceres.  Lee was on fire as he destroyed the Bright Star defense by scoring three successive goals to get top scoring honors for the team.

Mari Angeles showed some brotherly love by assisting to his brother Maru to claim Ceres’ 13th goal.  Nate Burkey then completed his brace in extra time to close out the win against newcomers Bright Start FC.  Ceres will complete its Group A assignments when they face Green Archers United on May 23 where the fixture will decide the probable number one seed for the group. Ivan Gayares

 

Azkals Road to World Cup: Best and Worst Case Draw Scenarios

By Ivan Geoffrey Gayares (@ivangeoffrey)

With an improving domestic league and 5 years after the Philippines resurgence in football, much is expected in the Azkals’ performance especially with the new World Cup qualifying format. The AFCs World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers will start this June and the draw for the group stages will happen in a few days time.

IMG_2691To give a quick recap, Asia’s top 40 teams have qualified for the second round, including the Philippines, and the groupings will be made up of eight groups of five teams.  The forty teams will be divided into five pots where the highest ranked teams will be in Pot #1 and the lowest ranked will be in Pot #5.  Based on the recent FIFA ranking, the Azkals are number 18th in the AFC and will be included in Pot #3.

AFC officials will then draw one ball from each pot to determine the group members of the eight groups.  Since our pot is already known, we will now wait and see on who will we play against from the other pots. Here are the best and worst case scenarios that the Azkals can get in the second round draw. 

Best Case Scenario 

Pot 1: China (WR 82, AFC 7)
It will be tempting to pick #8 Iraq as the best case top seed opponent, but since they are Asian Cup winners for 2007, they should be avoided.  This leaves us with no choice but to pick China.  Though China is really strong with its good performances and domestic league, out best bet is to hope to draw the weaker of the top eight teams.

Pot 2: Vietnam (WR 125, AFC 14) 

Vietnam recently beat the Azkals in the 2014 Suzuki Cup but the Philippine-squad have the better record in the last three matches. Though it will be troubly hard, the Azkals have no psychogical disadvantage against its fellow South East Asian team.

Pot 4: Bhutan (WR 163, AFC 32)

From being the lowest ranked team in the world and jumping fifty places to in a month, Bhutan will be favorites to be drawn by all Asian teams.   Bhutan’s recent qualifying winn over Sri Lanka may be impressive but the Azkals would be in a better position if Bhutan would be in their group.

Pot 5: Laos (WR 178, AFC 39)

Getting Laos in the group would be best as the Azkals have beaten this team convincinglynin the last AFF tourney.

Worst Case Scenario 

Pot 1: Iran (WR 40, AFC 1) 

Iran may have been unceremeniously eliminated from the Asian Cup but there is no team in Asia would want to go against Team Melli.  Undoubtedly, they are the best team in the continent

Pot 2: Saudi Arabia (WR 95, AFC 9)

The former Asian Champions are always a tough nut to crack and its best that they’d be avoided.

Pot 4: North Korea (WR 157, AFC 27)

Korea DPR’s ranking is decieving but its track record, especially in World Cup qualifying, will make them the most dangerous lowest ranked team in the region.

Pot 5: Malaysia (WR 164, AFC 33)

Though in the lowest pot, one cannot discount the strenght of the runner-up of the last Suzuki Cup.  With a strong domestic league and a revamped national squad, Malaysia can beat any team from Pots two to five.

In order for the Azkals to reach the next level of qualifying and an automatic slot in the Asian Cup, a lucky draw is needed for next week.  Anything can happen on April 14 so cross your fingers and hope for the best for the Philippine Azkals.

Breaking Down the 2015 UFL Schedule

It felt like Christmas morning when I received a copy of this years UFL competition schedule. Seven months of loaded domestic and international football was too much to take-in in one go, so I decided to break it down for all of you.

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UFL Division 1

UFL Division 1 will headline a complete 10-team cast for the highest level of Philippine League football.

The Ten First Division teams are:
Ceres-La Salle FC
Kaya Fc
Global FC
Loyola-Meralco Sparks FC
Stallion FC
Manila Jeepney FC
Philippine Army FC
Green Archers United FC
Team Socceroo FC
Pachanga-Diliman FC

Division 1 starts on February 7 with the final games on August 16, 2015. It will be a total of six months of action with a break in between rounds from April 19 to May 30. The break would be used by the UFL for its All-Star Break and also on the start of the youth competition in the summer. Both rounds will have the same order of opponents which will be highlighted by the games from the Big Four (Kaya, Ceres, Global, and Loyola). All games will be played in the RMC with no provincial games set in the schedule.

UFL Division 2

UFL Division 2 will only have 7 participants with new side Kabuscorp de Laguna FC and returnees Mendiola FC 1991. Division two will run with the first division but will finish earlier due to the number of teams. All games will be played in the RMC.

The Seven Second Division Teams are:
Laos FC
Agila FC
Pasargad FC
Kabuscorp de Laguna FC
JP Voltes FC
Mendiola FC 1991
Forza FC

The Cup

The initial schedule if the cup was created for eight groups of four teams (32 teams in total). Realistically, there are only 17 teams for the UFL so theres a chance for other clubs to join the Cup. The Cup may also be shortened in the group stages if the ideal number of participants are not met.

The best feature for me was the interweaving of both the League and Cup Competitions in the schedule. April 28 marks the Cup’s first day for the Group Stages with the Final on Aug 22, a week after the League ends. This is good as there is the incentive of still winning a major competition even if the League is settled early.

The AFC Cup

Ceres will play on Feb 17 against Maziya FC in the Maldives. If they win, they will already travel to India to meet Bengaluru FC for the first Group stage match. Global and Ceres will play six home and away matches with their games playing on different dates for every game which opens a possibility of TV coverages. All games will happen midweek and home stadia are Panaad and Rizal Memorial for Ceres and Global respectively. The group stages of the AFC Cup will end on the mid of May.

Beyond the schedule

There are no schedules indicated for activities after the League and Cup so I’m assuming that a mini tournament, probably the second installment of the FA League Cup will be done in the latter parts of the year.

The Local Supercup, match between League and Cup winners, match date is not yet part of the schedule but will undoubtedly happen.

Qualification beyond the round of 16 of the AFC Cup is unknown as only the Round of 16 match schedule is set on May the 26th. We will still see if out local teams progress to the next level.

The Schedule was well thought of and the fans will mostly be happy with it. The schedule seems to be a bit busy for Global and Ceres but there is enough rest days in between for match and travel recovery.

The full schedule will be available in the UFL Website (ufl.ph).

2014 AFF Suzuki Cup Power Rankings (Final)

The curtains if the 2014 ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup have closed with this years tournament being one of the most exciting in recent memory.  The Perfect Pass gives you the Final Power Rankings for this Tournament.

1440X900#4 Philippines

The Azkals couldn’t break eventual champions Thailand in their first leg in Manila and eventually succumbed to the the pressure in their second leg in Bangkok.  Overall,  The Philippine team manage to finish the tournament with highlights such as the drubbing of perennial tormentors Indonesia  and qualifying for the semifinals with a game to spare.

#3 Vietnam

The Red Warriors started their semifinal campaign very well making them overnight favorites for the final but a dose of overconfidence spelled their doom in the second leg as the Malaysians pulled of an improbable “Miracle in Hanoi, Part Two”.  The Vietnamese side made a few mistakes and had some bad luck in the end to lose against a tough veteran squad from Malaysia who then had nothing to lose.  It was a tough end for the tournament co-host as much were expected from their campaign.

#2 Malaysia

The come-back “kids” of the tournament almost pulled of the most stunning of finales but were eventually outrun in the end by the real kids in Thailand. Harimau Malaya with its veteran core did the improbable by putting three against Thailand in the first half of the second leg.  Credit goes to Coach Dollah Salleh for rolling the dice on his first eleven which eventually brought them to the cusp of the cup.  It was an eventual swan song for many of the players like Captain Shukor Adan who is in the twilight of his international career.

#1 Thailand

Quick thinking from Charryl Chappuis and a wonderstrike from Chanatip “Messi Jay” Sonkrasin made the difference as this fairly young Thai squad managed to beat everyone in the region to hoist their fourth AFF Suzuki Cup.  The War Elephants capped a spectacular comeback run ten minutes from time and snatch the Cup from the Malaysians.  The Thai squad are already automatic favorites in the 2018 edition of the tournament as most of the performers are part of the country’s Under-23 squad who can theoretically still play 4 more editions of the tournament.  Kiatisuk Senamuang fought for his U23 players before taking the head coaching job and his decision bore fruit as his young core brought the trophy back to Thailand.