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.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My thoughts the Philippines defeating Turkmenistan and booking a ticket to Maldives.

This appears in

My thoughts the Philippines defeating Turkmenistan and booking a ticket to Maldives.
by rick olivares pic from

Third time’s the charm.
In two previous match-ups between the Philippines and Turkmenistan, the latter came away as heart breakers.

The two national teams first met in the qualifiers for the 2009 AFC Challenge Cup held at Maldives where the Green Men, as Turkmenistan’s side is nicknamed, routed the Azkals, 5-0.

Their second meeting was in Nepal during the semifinals of the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup. In that game, Phil Younghusband scored an early goal for the Azkals but Turkmenistan tacked on two late goals (all in the last 10 minutes) to oust the Philippines from the competition in a 2-1 win.

This time, the Philippines, fresh from its successful 2012 Suzuki Cup run and its recent win against Myanmar in a friendly, was holding court at home. The Azkals had not tasted defeat since playing the visiting Los Angeles Galaxy in 2011 as they have run up an eight-match undefeated streak that includes draws against Indonesia, and Malaysia and wins against Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Guam, and Macau as well as the AFC Challenge Cup 8-0 rout of Cambodia last Sunday.

The Philippines dominated possession in this final match of the Group E Qualifiers although Turkmenistan had more attempts 14-10 and shots on goal 7-6. The Azkals finally defeated this contrapelo of a team when Phil Younghusband scored in the 66th minute and held off any rally at the end for a well-deserved, 1-nil victory.

Furthermore, it’s a breakthrough win that sends the Philippines to the AFC Challenge Cup Group Stages next year in Maldives.

Why am I ecstatic about this win?

Since 2010, every tournament the Azkals have played in, they achieved something then did better the next time they made it back.

For example, in the 2010 Suzuki Cup, the Philippines advanced with a 1-2-0 record to the semifinals. In the qualifiers, they also accumulated a 1-2-0 slate. The Azkals lost twice in the semifinals stage.

In the return gig in 2012, the Philippines lost its first assignment, 1-0, to Thailand  after which they repeated 1-0 over Vietnam then finally dispatching Myanmar, 2-0 to book a semis seat. Once in the final four, they figured in a scoreless draw with Singapore before losing 1-0 in the Lions’ home field. They improved on the 2010 showing.

In the second staging of the Long Teng Cup in 2011, the team went 1-2-0. In last year’s edition, held in Manila and called the Peace Cup, the Philippines swept all three matches to win the tournament.

Then there’s the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers where the Philippines defeated Mongolia to advance. They finished 1-2-0 (there’s that record again) in the Group Qualifiers and second place to Palestine to advance to the Group Stages.

While in Nepal, they finished second to North Korea in Group B play with a 2-1-0 record to go to the semifinals where Turkmenistan ended the Philippines’ glorious run.

Where do we go from here once the Azkals set foot or paws on Maldives.

And that begs the question, what more in the next World Cup Qualifiers (we made it to the second round of the Asian Qualifiers in 2011)?

So pardon me if I am giddy about this AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers win. The team is just getting better and the only place to go – is up the FIFA rankings.

That’s a dangerous left wing the Philippines has with Dennis Cagara and Stephan Schrock racing up and down the line.

Cagara is a rock on that side that he has inherited from Ray Jonsson. He doesn’t concede much. He has good on-ball skills and has an accurate boot. The partnership with Schrock on that side, given more chances to improve their chemistry, will only spell trouble for opponents.

The two have also been tasked to take the foul and corner kicks further underscoring their importance.

I love their street dog-style feistiness that says, “We’re no longer you’re whipping dogs.”

Schrock, ever since his debut, has become a creative and dynamic force for the Azkals. He’s an impact player who can make things happen. And in two games, he has served a reminder of what he can do for the country when he is on national duty.

I am normally not fond of players coming in and taking in assured starting slots, but Schrock, always comes to play and shows his quality. Massive addition to the team when he’s there.

The home field is fast becoming a graveyard for foes.
There was a spell where the nationals (or versions of it) were taking it on the chin one after another but the improvement of the line-up as well as a top-notch domestic league that has seen an increase as well in quality of play, have turned things around.

No one is taking the Philippines lightly anymore.

You just can’t keep a good man down
Since Phil Younghusband joined the national team in 2006, he’s been paired with Chad Gould, Ian Araneta, Angel Guirado, Nate Burkey, Dennis Wolf, and Javi Patiño up front. And Phil’s still there playing and scoring goals.

Several months ago, his commitment was been questioned when it should have never been (an absurd accusation when the whole matter was because of miscommunication). It got to the point where Phil and older brother James seriously considered retiring from international duty. It's a good thing that it never pushed through because Phil’s only 25 and not even in his prime.

In the meantime, he’s got 48 caps and 33 international goals (he’s also netted four goals in his Philippine Youth teams and 27 with Loyola). Who knows where he'll end up by the time he calls it a career?

Said Phil after the shellacking of Cambodia: “Being a striker, scoring goals gives you confidence. So right now I feel confident. I scored eight in one game as a kid and seven in one game in the UFL Cup of two years ago. I also scored four goals in my second game for the national team against East Timor in 2007.”

Said fellow journo Mike Limpag (Cebu Sun Star): “I just realized something. Phil's statement of how he only needs to get to the ball to score because of the quality of his teammates? That's probably true for goals 30 to 35, but for 1 to 30? Man he had to create all those chances.”

Phil’s confidence is up once more after his spotty use in the last few months.

Ay carumba! It looks like we’ve found Phil Younghusband’s strikemate.
Javier Patiño looked to still be finding his way with the Azkals and that is understandable since he’s only played two official matches with them. But he’s showed that he can be a threat and that leaves opponents now picking their poison – PYH or Patiño.

Patiño scored two goals against Cambodia and had several chances against Turkmenistan. Right before Younghusband’s goal, his run inside the box stretched the defense for Phil’s magnificent finish. Of course, it was a superb build-up coming from Schrock to Cagara before the ball was crossed.

And if anyone noticed, we had four Fil-Spaniards in the starting eleven – Carli de Murga, Juani and Angel Guirado, and Patiño. Good to see that Spanish football, best in the world right now, is also having an impact in local football.

This is said to be the strongest line-up ever fielded
Terrific starting eleven. Strong bench. Maybe we should use that bench a little more. Of course, that is the coach’s decision and we’ll just have to abide by it.

However, I loved the aggressiveness from the opening whistle where Phil Younghusband almost scored off a terrific run up to the box by Stephan Schrock. It took time for Turkmenistan to get their bearings. And the defense as led by Rob Gier was terrific.

Terrific job to the Philippine Men’s Football National Team! You guys rock! Time to book that ticket to the Maldives!

Why did the Azkals' attack stall in the second half? Turkmenistan moved up one defender to crowd the midfield. The Azkals didn't play too many longballs as their ground game was effective. The overcrowding of the midfield was to stymie Schrock and Cagara. When this happened, I wondered why the right wing where you could bring in guys like Patrick Reichelt or OJ Porteria was not utilized. 

I wanted to watch at RMFS last night but my health didn't permit me to do that. I wanted to validate what I was seeing in snippets on television but couldn't do so because of the changes in the camera angles. Next time.


  1. Some observations :

    1) Azkals vs Turkmenistan game exposed Shrock's weakness- with a solid defense , he can be rendered less effective! Against Cambodia, he was unstoppable but that gave the Greens enough time to prepare for his play-making abilities! Maybe it will be more prudent for Coach Weiss to design plays which can set up Shrock to shift his plays in the middle or right side , play him 'possum style or low-key in some stretches or "get" another play maker to set the plays aggressively as decoy for Shrock!

    2)On the other hand, Patino as a striker will be a better scorer once he gets used to Weiss' system! Obviously , he is still groping for form as an Azkal;

    3) PYhusband , apparently is still a reliable scorer for the team but the influx of more Euro-based talents playing midfield has relegated JYh and even Caligdong, J de Jong , CGreatwich as subs ;

    4) Muller has emerged as a solid GK for the Azkals and apparently upstaged Etheridge ;

    5) Noticeable that no homegrown Azkal has played in the Group Qualifiers as starting eleven is composed of 4 Fil-Spanish, a Fil-Brit, Fil Danes , Fil-Germans...

    6) Where is DWolf?

  2. A very good read sir Rick! We can call them the dream team and everybody would agree that the squad keeps on getting better and better with the acquisition of Fil-foreign players. But in my opinion, this is the strongest lineup ever fielded yes but not the strongest lineup that can be fielded for the Philippines.

    Angel Guirado is obviously not effective on the wings. he moves too slow, falls down so easily resulting to few crosses to the middle. He lacks the agility of a winger. a winger who evades his defenders and outruns his defenders. I would go for James Younghusband or Patrick Reichelt.

    Paul Mulders is a good player and an intelligent one. He can give great passes to teammates. But in the last few azkals matches, he's been an invisible player. Rarely gets a hold of the ball and when he does, most of the time gives it away to the opposing team. OJ Porteria or Marwin Angeles perhaps? during the azkals' suzuki cup campaign, when MW Angeles came in for Mulders, the azkals had better posession and opportunities because of marwin's short passess

  3. *2-1 defeat to Thailand sir, not 1-0...

  4. One thing is very clear . PYH has found a strike partner . now teams will have to worry another striker. not like in previous teams. marked PYH , and goals will be missing . now they can't lock down a single striker .
    And also I have to point out Jerry Lucena , very quite yet very effective protecting that defense . silent operator .

  5. Canonzinho Romero-SalasMarch 29, 2013 at 7:12 AM

    Jerry Lucena has consistently disrupted opposing midfielders. He is the anchor of a very much improved midfield from the one we saw in the recently concluded Suzuki Cup as well as that friendly against Myanmar. This team is already good as it is and will improve so much more the more games they play. I hope they can get more friendlies when the off-season comes in by June. Then somehow be able to manage to get most of the team together in competitive matches next year (the AFC Challenge Cup Final and the Suzuki Cup).

  6. I believe Angel is being misused at the wings. For a guy his size, he has the deft ball control of a La Roja bench guy. No matter how many guys pin themselves on him, he still manages to keep his dribble. And, he should be playing the CF or center field. It's no joke the guy can score but at the wings, his bulldozing ways are rendered ineffective. I'd rather have him going down the middle carving a path to open up the defensive wall of the opposing GK. Also, we need to have legit defenders. Something like a bred center back like Carles Puyol or Pique. Or just a pure CB for that matter. The positions of our defenders listed on the boob tube were MFs!