Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Philippines-Myanmar: Time to send these Angels crashing out

This appears in the Friday, November 30, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.

Time to send these Angels crashing out
by rick olivares

BANGKOK -- When the Philippines takes on Myanmar this Friday, November 30 at Supachalasai Stadium (the Thai national stadium), the Azkals have the opportunity to advance to the semifinals stage with a win over their struggling opponent.

The Philippines is flush with renewed confidence after its 1-0 win over Vietnam while Myanmar is reeling after a 4-0 beating by Thailand during last Tuesday’s matches at the Rajamangala Stadium. The win put the Philippines in prime position to move on while Myanmar, despite being at the cellar of Group A, has an outside chance of still advancing and spoiling the Azkals’ dreams of repeating their 2010 feat.

A win by Myanmar over the Philippines coupled with a Vietnam upset over semis-bound Thailand could see them through as well – provided they score a bunch of goals to offset their goal differential of minus-five. Myanmar’s South Korean head coach Park Sung Wa said that the task before them is a very difficult one. “We have a mathematical chance of going through but that will take a miracle. The Philippines has a very strong team. Their defense is strong and they have good offensive players. But we will give it our best.”

For the Philippines to avoid the complication of tiebreakers, the three full points from a win is the surest way to go through. However, qualifying against the White Angels, as the Myanmar squad is nicknamed, will not be easy. In the 16-year history of the tournament, the Philippines has yet to defeat Myanmar.

In 1998 Tiger Cup, the Philippines took a 2-1 lead after two strikes by Freddy Gonzalez. The White Angels responded with four goals to take a 5-2 win in Ho Chi Minh City.

In the 2000 staging of the Asean Football Championships, the two teams were in the same bracket once more. The Philippines took a 3-0 loss in their first game of the tournament.

Staring at another whitewashing in the 2002 tournament, Gonzalez scored a late goal to salvage a little pride and to prevent a shutout in a 6-1 loss to Myanmar. That match was again in the first match of both teams.

In December of 2004, a Fil-foreigner reinforced Philippines squad was heartbroken when San Day Thien claimed a stoppage time goal for a 1-0 win the first assignment for both teams.

With 500 people in the stands for the 2007 encounter of the tournament, the Philippines finally claimed a point off Myanmar with a scoreless draw at the Thai Army Sports Stadium.

The two teams did not face each other in 2008 but in Vietnam for the 2010 Suzuki Cup, the two countries figured in another scoreless draw. The point claimed by the Philippines saw them through to the semifinals stage.

“We only take this one game at a time,” said Philippine national head coach Michael Weiss. “You cannot take any team in this competition lightly no matter their standing. We will have to fight for our place but we are confident of our abilities.”

“The game will not be handed to us on a silver platter,” said striker Phil Younghusband who has yet to find the back of the net in the tournament. “Football can be strange. We saw defending champions Malaysia lose to Singapore, 3-nil, the other night. In our own group, Vietnam drew with Myanmar. We have to go out and win this.”

The Azkals will miss the services of midfielder Jerry Lucena who flew back to Denmark after his club, Esbjerg, recalled him. Lucena started in the Philippines’ first two matches against Thailand and Vietnam. But Weiss can still count on the services of Chieffy Caligdong, James Younghusband, Jason de Jong, Angel Guirado, Patrick Reichelt, Jeffrey Christiaens, Marwin Angeles, Carli de Murga, Demetrius Omphroy, and Chris Greatwich to platoon the midfield. 

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