The Philippines rose to the occasion as they dominated Sri Lanka 4-0. After the anti-climactic game in Sri Lanka where the team only managed a 1-1 result on the poor pitch at the Sugathadasa stadium the team have regrouped to make history and qualify for the second round of the World Cup qualifiers.
The team really showed their class, putting together several smart passing moves throughout the game. Chieffy Caligdong set the team on their way after dribbling in the area past several defenders before firing into the bottom left corner on the 19th minute. Controlling much of the possession the team had several chances with James Younghusband forcing the Sri Lankan goalkeeper into a fine fingertip save. Despite the chances it seemed like the Philippines would take a slender lead into half-time until Phil Younghusband beat the Sri Lankan defence for strength and rounded the goalkeeper to score the Philippines’ second goal of the game on the 43rd minute.
Completely in control, the Philippines had thirteen attempts on goal to Sri Lanka’s two in the first half. The second half was no different as James Younghusband put Angel Guirado through with a fantastic pass on the 50th minute, the big striker rounding the goalkeeper and slotting in to ensure qualification for the Philippines for the first time in history. The Philippines didn’t rest on the lead, though, and continued pressing high up the pitch. Fil-German Stephan Schrock, man of the match in the first leg, showed his class once more with a great array of passes. He went on to win a penalty as he was taken down in the Sri Lankan area giving Phil Younghusband the chance to double his tally as he blasted into the top corner of the goal to give the Philippines a 4-0 lead.
The positive result came in front of a full crowd at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. With tickets selling out in just hours after their release, the Philippine crowd have become the twelfth man for the team, led by the Kaholeros who chanted and cheered throughout the match.
After the game Weiss said that “Today we finally opened the knot and showed the power and potential that the team has.” Happy with the performance he was pleased with the playing style of the team as the fluid football passes reflected the change in style from previous generations. With flowing football Weiss said that “We created many chances and deservedly took the lead. We have quality players and I am very happy they showed what they can do”.
In Sri Lanka few people seem to understand what has happened as it was difficult to find anyone who knew that their national side were facing the Philippines before the game. Instead, this reporter had to camp in an internet café, streaming the match live and tweeting from inside the cubicle there. For those who haven’t heard, whilst reporting from Sri Lanka my passport was stolen and missing the flight I’ve had to stay behind and wait for the British High Commission to open on Monday before securing flights back to the Philippines and a new passport.
Away from the manic passion of Manila, the reaction here has been very quiet perhaps showing the lack of expectations the country has for the football team. Famous for strong cricket teams, their football team looked in danger of losing to a cricket score as the Azkals pressed throughout the game. Even after the fourth goal the Philippines looked to extend the lead as substitute Ian Araneta raced though several times to beat defenders and shoot at goal. Each time, however, he failed to hit the target but fashioned the chances for himself and put in a good performance. There was still time before the final whistle for Rohana, the Sri Lankan captain, to be sent off for a second yellow card when he deliberately handballed a James Younghusband through ball to stop a fifth Azkal goal.
The party begins in the Philippines as the Azkals make history and go through to the next round to face Kuwait. Coming out of the game, Phil Yunghusband, Angel Guirado and Aly Borromeo all played well despite the injuries they’d picked up. With Ray Jonsson returning and Angel Guirado and Phil Younghusband showing their recovery the team is reaching it’s full strength and lifts the already high spirits across the country. Filipinos across the world joined in the celebration with Angel Guirado, Phil Younghusband, Neil Etheridge and the Rizal Stadium all in the top ten trending worldwide topics on Twitter; #philippineazkals reached number two showing how popular the team have become in just the last year.
The best thing to take from the match, however, is possibly the way the Azkals won. Despite heavy rain coinciding with the start of the game, the team played a great passing game and broke through the Sri Lankan defence like knife through butter. They will face stiffer competition against Kuwait, though, who are ranked fifty-seven places higher than the Azkals in the FIFA rankings, 102 and 159 respectively.
From Sri Lanka the news is quiet and few people seem to know what’s happened. But in the Philippines the party begins as the team have won their first World Cup match ever and in such dominating fashion. The Philippines have won the game 4-0 and qualify 5-1 on aggregate, but in the process they have shown the Philippines what they can do. With 26 shots on goal, the Philippines dominated the game and 4-0 didn’t flatter the team.
The players left the pitch emotionally, Neil Etheridge dedicating his performance to his grandfather who recently passed away, wearing a t-shirt in his memory and tweeting”R.I.P Grandad, that game was for you”. Now, the nation turns to the end of the month when the Azkals will travel to Bahrain to train and prepare for Kuwait on the 23rd and 28th of July. The whole of the Philippines stands together in this win, though, celebrating the great result as the Azkals have created the perfect moment in Philippine football history.