The Azkals ran out comfortable winners after recovering from an early scare from Laos at the My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi. Laos took the lead after a beautiful free-kick from Khamphen Sayavutthi but Simone Rota and Phil Younghusband headed the Azkals back on level terms and then ahead before Patrick Reichelt came off the bench to score and brace and wrap up a great win to open the 2014 Suzuki Cup.
The Philippines started quickly as the team had a great chance in the opening minutes. A sluggish Lao backline was caught out as a chipped through pass found Phil Younghusband onside but the Philippines’ top scorer rushed his shot, controlling and shooting on his second touch when he had time in front of goal. Trickling wide, his shot was shepherded out by the recovering defence.
The Philippines’ size advantage rapidly became apparent as the much smaller Laotians were at times bullied off the ball. But after Juani Guriado bodychecked his man 20 yards out, Laos took the lead from a free-kick. Curling in over the wall and hitting the post on its way in, Khampheng Sayavutthi’s sublime free-kick opened the scoring of the game and of the 2014 Suzuki Cup in the 21st minute. It was the midfielder’s 9th goal for his country, and 5th goal in the Suzuki Cup so far, after netting four times in Qualification.
The goal came against the run of play and taken by surprise the Azkals picked up the pace a little and almost equalized in the 31st minute as Laos’ goalkeeper spilled the ball under pressure from Mark Hartmann and Phil Younghusband poked goalwards. Replays were inconclusive as to whether the ball crossed the line, as the Suzuki Cup doesn’t have Hawkeye (or the magic line spray), and the officials didn’t give it (which I’d say is probably the right decision).
Then in the 40th minute, a Manny Ott corner swung in and was met by Simone Rota at the near post, who flicked in to equalize. With no-one on the back post Laos could have prevented the goal but they lost the aerial battle throughout the match and may have wanted more numbers in the area.
And five minutes later Laos the Azkals exploited their height advantage again as a cross from the left wing met Phil Younghusband who nodded the Azkals in front right before half-time.
The swing killed Laos’ morale and the game began slowly in the second half as a result. It took a while for it to burst into life again but in the 64th minute Laos almost equalized as they countered down the left and centred the ball, but couldn’t just quite stretch enough to tap in.
Soon after and at the other end substitute Patrick Reichelt, who came on for Mark Hartmann, seemed to kill the game. Phil Younghusband’s chipped ball fed the Ceres winger through and he nutmegged the Laotian keeper to give the Philippines a two goal cushion.
3-1 down, Laos got frustrated and picked up a few unnecessary bookings in the process, and the game was killed off as super sub Patrick Reichelt grabbed his 7th goal for the country in the 88th minute. Phil Younghusband took the ball down the left wing and with the outside of his boot played in a fantastic ball to the backpost with three Azkals queuing up to score. Reichelt was the one to get on the end of the assist and wheeled away to celebrate his brace and a Philippine victory in the opening game of the Suzuki Cup.
It was a solid performance from the Azkals after a less than ideal preparation and rumblings of discontent in the camp. With 60% possession and three times more shots than Laos (18-6), the Azkals deserved the victory and it puts them in pole position ahead of hosts Vietnam’s clash with Indonesia.
Cheering from Payatas
Watching from Payatas the kids and I enjoyed the victory. After seeing the open door at our drop-in centre here just before kick-off the room quickly filled with 20 kids cheering on the Philippines and enjoying the action and more trickled in as the word got around.
Most of the kids train with us at the local barangay basketball court as part of Payatas Football Club, the team I coach here in Payatas. And there are some fantastic talents here too. The potential is huge, as we’ve had players called up for the National Youth Teams after a year and a half of playing once a week, barefoot on a basketball court. The passion for football is amazing, one time they burst the football and started kicking around the basketball for the next week instead, until that broke.
So with the Azkals performing well we can all see that football is growing, but there are many obvious growing pains at the same time. The main one being playing venues. In Payatas we have over 100 kids using the same basketball court to train, but lately we’ve been allowed to use the court less and less, always having to fight with local basketballers even when we’ve scheduled the court with the local barangay. It’s impossible to find enough time, and not caring about the kids (who can’t vote of course) we get bumped whenever there’s a conflict. So our goal, our dream, is now to build our own futsal court.
With the facilities we know that the kids will improve massively, as the older kids start coaching the younger ones too. And at the same time we’ll be building a school, a large urban farm, facilities for social enterprise and livelihood, and so much more. Philippine football is growing fantastically well and the Azkals are competing valiantly at the top of Southeast Asia. But right now the level of infrastructure is so far off the level of Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, and others in the region. Helping to build futsal courts in areas where the beautiful game is beautifully loved is essential. So to be part of the team and help us reach these exciting goals please visit this Just Giving page, give what you can, and share it with friends and family: www.justgiving.com/FairplayForAllFoundation/
For more information email us at email@example.com and to see more about Payatas FC check out this great feature by FIFA TV on FIFA Futbol Mundial.