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.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Breaking down the Philippines' win over Myanmar: winning & making history with style

This appears in the Sunday, December 2, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.
  This one is winning and making history – with style!
by rick olivares picture by mark ypon

On Bonifacio Day, a day celebrated in the Philippines for the nationalist and revolutionary, new and modern-day heroes closed out the day by making history.

The Philippine Men’s Football National Team won their way into the semifinal stages of the 2012 Suzuki Cup after conquering Myanmar for the first time ever with a 2-0 victory.

Phil Younghusband announced rather belatedly his entry into the Suzuki Cup with a resounding goal in the 47th minute when he latched onto a long forward pass by Jason de Jong for a 1-nil lead.

De Jong’s 30-yard pass was perfect. A superb touch saw Phil beat three defenders – Thein Than Win, Zaw Min Tun, and Zaw Zaw Oo – take one dribble before finishing with his left foot to beat Kyaw Zin Phyo.

In stoppage time, Carli de Murga found Angel Guirado with a similar forward pass. With Myanmar committing more players to the attack in hopes to grabbing a late equalizer, it came down to a footrace between Guirado and Zaw Min Tun. The Fil-Spaniard controlled the ball with his knee and made sure the ball stayed in front of him then hammered home the insurance goal with his left foot that gloriously sent the Philippines to the next round.

Prior to this match with Myanmar, the White Angels owned the Philippines with a 4-2-0 record. However, in the last two meetings between the two countries in this tournament, the final results saw a draw. In this crucial tiff that took place at the same time as the Thailand-Vietnam match at the Rajamangala Stadium (the host country won 3-1), a draw would have still sent the team through but a win would eliminate all the complications of Vietnam pulling a stunning upset and combing through the goal difference.

Let’s break down this historic win.

After Guirado scored his first goal of the Suzuki Cup, he used his hands to form a heart that he put over his chest. He meant three things: it’s all about heart, it’s all about the Philippines, and it’s also for his wife who he misses terribly back in Spain.

And the team played with a lot of heart but also desire. A desire to see this whole business through. Guirado’s goal was pure effort. A singular desire to beat his defender and ensure that we could all breathe a little easier knowing that a late Myanmar goal will not spoil any late night partying and dreams.

The party got started by the Kaholeros in the stands even before warmups. The Filipino fans were on either side of the Supachalasai Stadium and although outnumbered by their Burmese counterparts, they never failed to let their voices be heard. They sang their hearts out. They busted their lungs to sing and cheer. It was positively hair-raising. The other night, I tweeted that “if ‘Lupang Hinirang’ doesn’t get your blood pumping either you are not Filipino or you’re dead.” The crowd last night in the smaller Supachalasai Stadium made the voices even louder and I don’t know about the others but it did give me goose bumps.

And good crowd support is like an adrenaline shot.

After all the all-important first win against Vietnam, the Philippines entered its final group stage match with renewed confidence. The promise of fielding a better team for this competition was coming to fruition. You could see the energy of the players as everyone was active on both sides of the field.

With the team trying to find its rhythm at the start of the match, Myanmar had a couple of chances to score as Kaung Si Thu and Kyi Lin raced inside the box on three occasions but failed to connect on crosses.

It took veteran Jason de Jong to stabilize matters. He defended, made good and accurate passes, and was a link to the attacking and defensive thirds. Then the back four of Carli de Murga, Rob Gier, Juani Guirado, and Dennis Cagara got going with the latter to repelling all sorties coming their way. Their steadfastness and resoluteness on defense was inspiring.

It wasn’t like the Philippines was in a holding pattern. The Henrique Callisto’s of this world cannot accuse the team of parking the bus. There were lots attempts to attack and to pad the lead. Angel Guirado and James Younghusband had very good chances to double the score but failed to do so. When Myanmar redoubled their efforts to equalize, it was all hands on deck in defending. Even Phil Younghusband would track back and chase the midfielders.

Ed Sacapaño, who ably stepped into Neil Etheridge’s large shoes, was sparkling once more at the goal. He read attempts to slip the throughball well and snatched away any threats in the air.

By match’s end, it was a total team effort. And they saved their best for last; a 2-nil win to send the Philippines through to the next stage.

The Azkals not only bettered their 2010 finish with a 2-0-1 record and six points, but they also scored four goals. Two from the veterans – Chieffy Caligdong and Phil Younghusband – and two from the new additions in Paul Mulders and Angel Guirado scored making it a perfect bridge from the past to the future.

The group stages are done with the Philippines waiting its next opponent in a home-and-away semifinals series. The revolution that began in 2010 is now continuing to bear fruit. History is continuing to be written.


My choice for the Azkals' best player of the group stages here.

With Bob Guerrero and Craig Burrows outside the Thailand National Stadium. In the pic below, with some Myanmar supporters with whom we posed with for posterity right before the match.


  1. it was indeed a team effort. so, so glad the Azkals won. they truly deserve to be in the semis. and since we gotta dream big, we gotta dream, hope & pray that they will be able to pass this another huge hurdle and move on to the finals.

    and yeah, i agree with this, "The other night, I tweeted that if ‘Lupang Hinirang’ doesn’t get your blood pumping either you are not Filipino or you’re dead.”

    truly appreciate the effort as well of the Kaholeros & other Filipinos in Thailand who came out and support the team.

  2. I prayed so hard that the team will go thru semis, they deserve it. Thank God, they made it!

  3. I have to say this that football made me appreciate the national anthem, Lupang Hinirang more than in any other ocassion. There's no time than when it is being played during football games that I am more proud to be a Filipino. Whenever other people will say something negative, I defend, with so much passion, the players who do not really play for themselves on every football game they participate in, but for the country, the Phillipines. For at the end of every game, when the team wins, the players' being half-whatever or Fil-Foreign is not what is being known and glorified in South East Asia but the Philippines itself. And with that comes respect for the nation as well. For with this game, we have proven ourselves from unknowns and underdogs to a respectable football playing nation because of the hardwork of the players in our national team.

    Mabuhay #Azkals! #WEBELIEVE All the way to the finals! #AFFSuzukiCup 2012  

  4. After this, who would dare call them underdogs? But for those who insist, the results are a gargantuan slap in the face. Well-deserved victory! This is how our modern-day soldiers in the pitch cry for revolution, placing another milestone for the development of Philippine Football.