Villaflor: Weighing the Peace Cup Squad-A A +A
Friday, September 28, 2012
AN emphatic win.
That’s what it was, the Philippine Men’s National Football Team 5-nil thrashing of Macau last Thursday night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.
It was a morale-boosting win at the Peace Cup, all right, as the Azkals go into the final phase of its preparations for the Suzuki Cup in November.
And this brings us to the question: can the same squad that played yesterday perform just as well in the biennial Asean tournament, where the powerhouses of this football-crazy region vie for football supremacy?
The answer is an emphatic no. And unless the euphoria of Thursday’s win has altered one’s good judgment, no one who has a decent understanding of football would deny that the Azkals were pitted against an inferior team.
While the quality of the opponents is so-so, the manner with which the game was won is impressive nevertheless, especially following a mediocre 1-0 win over Guam. Five goals and a clean sheet in one game is always a cause for celebration. The same goes with Denis Wolf’s superb hat trick.
But last Thursday’s result, or most probably even tonight’s, reveals little about where the squad stands among Southeast Asia’s best.
Sure the nationals are poised to lift tonight’s Peace Cup trophy—not doing so would be a national disaster—but the trophy, though the first football title the country has won in ages, only serves as a temporary balm for a football community ailing from some strange internal conflict.
So let’s be honest: the quality of their opponents in the Peace Cup is not the same as that of the Challenge Cup and, of more urgency, this November’s Suzuki Cup.
If the Azkals wish to stand toe-to-toe with the Asean powerhouses, then the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) and Azkals management must send the best team at its behest.
No doubt, this Peace Cup squad will be the future of Philippine football – give them two years, tops – but admittedly this same squad isn’t the best there is right now
because so many tried and tested names just aren’t there.
And if only to remind the fans, the best squad at the country’s disposal is the one that did so well in the Challenge Cup last March, the one that drew 2-2 against Indonesia last June, the one that beat Singapore 2-0 early this month.
It is the squad that included foreign-based players such as Stephan Schrock, Manuel Ott, Ray Jonsonn, Rob Gier, Paul Mulders and Neil Etheridge.
It is the squad that the Azkals management has worked so hard to assemble over the last two years, the same squad that had at its core brothers Philip and James Younghusband, who time and again have been the national team’s go-to guys. And rarely—and I mean rarely —did they disappoint.
But because of some “communication problem,” the Younghusband brothers are “out” of
What’s even more disturbing was how many fans were quick to relegate James and Phil to some distant corner of history. One female fan posted a photo of a topless Denis Wolf on Facebook and exclaimed: “Philip, who?!” (Shouldn’t she have been more excited about the potency of a Philip-Denis partnership up front?)
Still, it wouldn’t hurt to remind the girl who Philip the Azkal is: Golden Boot winner of the 2012 Challenge Cup with six goals, current top-scorer of the Philippine Men’s National Team with 26 goals in 37 appearances, toughened veteran of international matches, team player, and a true gentleman on and off the field.
And when it comes to skills and consistency, no striker in both the national and club levels comes close (for his club the Loyola Sparks, he’s amassed 23 goals in 17
appearances, or an average of 1.35 goals per match).
The controversy that surrounds the Younghusbands’ “falling out” with the team revolves around their “worth” as players, but let as leave it to the PFF and Azkals management how to quantify Philip and James’ contribution to the Azkals team and, more importantly, to lifting Philippine football out of its darkest days.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 29, 2012.