On September 8, the Philippine Azkals take a leap of faith in its quest to accomplish what no other Asean country has ever done in the history of global football: that is, to join the elite group of soccer-crazy countries in the final stage of the FIFA World Cup to be held in Russia in 2018.

Lets support our Azkals this Sept 8. courtesy of

Confronting the Azkals at the spanking new Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan are the highly-touted Uzbekistan eleven, The Uzbeks are seeded much higher (73rd) than the 139th-seeded Azkals, and hence are the provisional favorites to win the Group H double round-robin series. It goes without saying that the clash with the Uzbeks will be very crucial for our Azkals. And as fans, it is our duty to provide them the fullest support we can, by packing and making noise at the Stadium in Bocaue this September 8.The ongoing World Cup qualifying round has the Azkals playing 8 matches; 4 home-and-away pair of games against other Group H members: Uzbekistan, Bahrain (ranked 108th), North Korea (149th) and Yemen (171st). There are eight groups with five teams each in the Asian Regionals. The top team in each group plus the four second-best teams to be determined by goal difference across all groups will advance to the next round.

Azkals on the loose!!! courtesy of

The twelve survivors in the next round will be split into two groups of six that will play each other in another set of round robin home-and-away games. The top two from each group will win the honor and prestige of representing Asia in the World Cup in Russia. The third-placers get another chance and square off in a home-and-away tiff, with the winner playing another the home-and-away series against a similarly-situated team from another continent for the final slot. This will mean that there will be 4 or 5 countries representing Asia in the World Cup, depending on the results of the inter-continental playoffs for the wildcard slot.

Thus far, the hungry Azkals are toting a spotless 2-0 slate with an upset victory over Bahrain and a crushing win over an embattled Yemen. With the twin wins, the Azkals have a great chance of moving to the next round, hopefully to go on and taste Russian caviar in the world’s biggest sports spectacle come 2018.

Football is catching on once again with the twin victories recently. courtesy of

Here is how our schedule, with the corresponding finished results, look. The home teams are on the left and the visiting teams on the right.

June 11, 2015: Philippines hosted Bahrain (Philippines won, 2-1)
June 16, 2015: Yemen hosted Philippines  (Philippines won, 2-0)
September 8, 2015: Philippines hosts Uzbekistan
October 8, 2015: Korea DPR hosts Philippines
October 13, 2015: Bahrain hosts Philippines
November 12, 2015: Philippines hosts Yemen
March 24, 2016: Uzbekistan hosts Philippines
March 29, 2016: Philippines hosts Korea DPR

“Let’s take advantage of the hometown matches by watching the Azkals play in person. The Azkals will be playing for the country’s honor. The fans’ support will count a lot,” Team Manager Dan Palami said.

The passionate manager, Dan Palami. (courtesy of

After the Uzbeks, the Azkals will test the mettle of Korea DPR. The North Koreans are no pushovers as well. Though ranked by FIFA 149th in the world, or 10 ranks lower than the Azkals, Korea DPR had reached the World Cup final stage as recently as in 2010 and has won the now-defunct AFC Challenge Cup for emerging Asian countries twice. Hence the North Koreans are also in the race for an outright qualifying slot.

But football being a most unpredictable game, the Azkals have as good a chance as any of making it to the next round. Things are certainly looking bright, with 27-year old Phil Younghusband still in his prime, plus the ever-dangerous Mark Hartmann, the mercurial Misagh Bahadoran, the improving Javier Patino (currently campaigning in the Chinese league), and the return of the prolific Stefan Schrock. Last year, Stefan had an ugly misunderstanding with coach Thomas Dooley, making him leave the team. It looks like all is well now as Stefan is happily working out with the rest of the team. His presence in the midfield brings much stability to both ends of the playing court.

posing before the match against Yemen. courtesy of

Also expected to deliver are proven wingbacks Daisuke Sato and Simone Rota, while the midfield tandem of Manny Ott and Martin Steuble will help bolster both offensive and defensive lines.

The Azkals are slowly jelling under coach Dooley’s system. Hopefully, the presence of a large and loud crowd will inspire our Azkals to win and eventually bring the country to a first-ever World Cup appearance.

Mark your calendars, guys, and let’s give the Azkals the hometown advantage to bring us football glory!!

(Photos courtesy of sherwin vardeleon, mary ann collantes, inquirer,net,,,

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The glory days of the Azkals soon to come.

Misagh Bahadoran scores against Yemen.


Azkals acknowledge a supportive crowd.

Bahrain did not come down without a fight.

But the Azkal offensive line could not be denied.

Patino and Coach Dooley hug after Patinos score.

Rejoicing after the Bahrain upset.
Philippine Azkals on the Verge On September 8, the Philippine Azkals take a leap of faith in its quest to accomplish what no other Asean country has ever done in the history of global football: that is, to join the elite group of soccer-crazy countries in the final stage of the FIFA World Cup to be held in Russia in 2018.

RAMPAGING FULLBACK | The story of Ceres FC’s Louie Michael Casas, and why he deserves Azkals consideration:

Sports5 file

At first glance, Louie Michael Casas may appear much older than his actual age.

Perhaps it is his moustache, or his facial hair, or that subtly thinning hairline — or maybe because it seems that he has been around forever.

Even before Neil Etheridge and Roland Mueller, Casas was already with the national team, playing for the Azkals even before they were called the Azkals.

A product of Danao City in Cebu, Casas started playing football when he was in Grade Two. By Grade Five, he was sent to Australia for a month of goalkeeping training supervised by famed Cebu-based coach Graeme Mackinnon.

Casas would go on to make his national team debut in the 2004 Tiger Cup, a precursor to the current Suzuki Cup. At 19 years old, he had become the squad’s the youngest player and its starting goalkeeper, no less.

Making history

It was a memorable stint for the Philippines as it notched its first-ever victory in the competition, a 2-1 win over Timor Leste in the group stages.

“It was an amazing experience playing in that tournament, and that time I promised to myself that I will make history, and thanks to God it was granted”, Casas said.

Under the guidance of national coach Aris Caslib that year, Casas played with the likes of Chad Gould, Raymund Tonog and a wunderkind named Emelio “Chieffy” Caligdong, who was just 22 back then.

Casas recalled his shining moment during that time.

“In that tournament also, I saved one penalty vs. Malaysia. Lalabas talaga adrenaline ‘pag ang bansa ang dinadala, ‘yon bang kakaiba talaga na level,” he said.

Casas continued to don the national team colors in the 2007 edition of the tournament, playing alongside Phil Younghusband, Chris Greatwich, Anto Gonzales and Ali Go who would later become his coach at Ceres-La Salle FC.

There, Casas made what might be his biggest save in his national team career.

Myanmar had needed only a 1-0 win against then minnows the Philippines to progress to the knockout stages. But they failed to get past an in-form Casas standing in their way.

With Casas denying shots, Myanmar was held scoreless and settled for a 0-0 draw, sending rivals Malaysia to the knockout stages instead.

Due to his performance, Casas was adjudged the Man of the Match.

“The 500-strong crowd that day were predominantly from Myanmar and after the game, all their fans threw bottles at their team, because they couldn’t believe the result,” recounted Casas.

Taking a backseat

After the tournament, he transferred to Bacolod where he enrolled at the University of Saint La Salle when fate intervened.

The national team was about to play in Iloilo, and Casas had been asked to suit up again. But he was unavailable, paving the way for the Filipino-English Etheridge to make his mark.

“‘Yong time na yon, ‘di pumayag coach ko sa La Salle (na maglaro ako), kaya ‘yon, si Neil Etheridge ang dumating,” Casas said.

“Yon ang first tournament ni Etheridge para sa Pilipinas.”

Etheridge, since then, has become the country’s top goalkeeper in international tournaments. And with the influx of players with foreign lineage based abroad, Casas found his spot in the national team gone.

Return for Azkals?

Casas with the author

Now, at the ripe old age of 29 and entering the prime of his football career, Casas can be seen plying his trade in the United Football League with Bacolod-based side Ceres, the league’s newly crowned champions.

He was in scintillating form throughout the championship run of Ceres which clinched the league title with still two games to spare. He helped the club to 13 wins in 15 games whilst allowing the fewest number of goals allowed (10) in the league so far.

With his impressive showing, Casas could surely give the Azkals a boost. He certainly has earned the right to be included in any conversation involving the selection of the team’s goalkeepers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.

In a champion team like Ceres that is full of superstars, Casas stands tall and is every bit as integral to their success as the outfield players.

But why has Azkals coach Thomas Dooley overlooked him?

Casas, together with Green Archers standout goalkeeper Paolo Pascual, has been thrust into his team’s starting position and has delivered stellar performances between the sticks this season.

All credit and respect to current local Azkals goalkeepers Tomas Trigo and Patrick Deyto, but the feats of Casas and Pascual deserve careful consideration as well.

Casas’ Ceres coach Ali Go agrees, and is unequivocal about the quality of his keeper, while sparing no words for the Azkals management.

“We have Casas in goal. I think it is impossible that any coach of the national team cannot see, or maybe they are blind with this. I think everyone knows that he’s supposed to be there (with the Azkals),” Go said.

“But I don’t know how they look at their players in the national team in this category, but rest assured, I think everyone in the team, even other teams (agree), Casas should be there.”

Azkals mainstay and fellow Ceres teammate Juani Guirado shared the same sentiments.

“He deserves an opportunity in the Azkals. I don’t know why (he) never comes even for training camp. I respect all keepers but Casas deserves be there,” Guirado said.

Is his perceived lack of height an issue for the snub? Casas stands just a shade under six feet.

Casas would be the first to admit his lack of physical stature — and how he has overcome it.

“I don’t have height,” he said, “but God gave me other abilities.”

Ryan Fenix is’s resident football analyst. His football column Rampaging Fullback appears exclusively on the site. He runs the football blog The Prawn Sandwich Brigade and covers football for Sports5. For more football discussion, follow him on Twitter.

Phillipine Azkals vs Bahrain

Sharing you phtos from the Phillipine Azkals vs Bahrain held at Philippine Sports Stadium.


Ceremony before the game starts

And let the games begin

After the second half, Team Philippines got a goal for the first time

then after some few more play, Team Philippines got another goal

That made Team Philippines won that night.

Congratulations Team Philippines for winning. 

Azkals sparkplug Misagh Bahadoran happy to finally score 1st international goal: Marquez

Philippine national men’s football team veteran Misagh Bahadoran has always been known as a sparkplug for the Azkals, always providing the energy and added bite on the midfield whenever his name is called.

But an international goal had been elusive for him. That changed on Thursday night when he scored a goal in the Azkals’ 2-1 win over Bahrain in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

“I’m happy that I scored my first international goal against Bahrain,” Bahadoran said.

He could have finished with a hat trick, actually, if not for two misses. His attempt at the 59th minute was foiled by the Bahrain defense, only to be saved by Javier Patino who made a rebound goal.

Bahadoran also attempted a nice header at the 75th minute which just went wide off the post.

“He could have scored three goals today,” Azkals coach Thomas Dooley said.

With his contributions, it is surprising to know that Bahadoran wasn’t even on the field when the match started. He only subbed in midway through the first half when Azkals star Stephan Schrock left the game with a knee injury.

The accidental lineup shuffle paid off for the Azkals as Bahadoran scored the opening goal at the 50th minute after flicking in a one-footed shot off a Phil Younghusband cross from the left flank.

“It was a fantastic ball by Phil, he closed very well. He saw my movement especially Patino he brought the defender with him which gave me a bigger space for me to score,” Bahadoran said.

Dooley praised Bahadoran’s will to help the squad despite finding himself coming off the bench instead of as a starter.

“Misagh came in, he lost his starting position obviously. But he came with the desire and did an excellent job,” Dooley said.

“That was a spark for us.”

With Schrock likely to miss the Azkals’ next match against Yemen, Bahadoran is expected to fill the gap following an impressive performance.

Bahadoran is glad to earn Dooley’s trust.

“I’m so happy that coach trusted me to put in the big game after Schrock (got injured),” Bahadoran said.


Congratulations Pilipinas! #roadtoworldcup #azkals #futbol #ultrasfilipinas

RAMPAGING FULLBACK | 5 things we learned from the Azkals’ rousing win over Yemen:


The Philippine national men’s football team’s impressive start to its 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers campaign continued with a lively 2-0 victory over Yemen Wednesday morning in Manila.

Hoping to sustain momentum from the impressive 2-1 win over Bahrain, the Azkals made two changes to its starting lineup — Misagh Bahadoran coming in for the injured Stephan Schrock and Luke Woodland finally making his debut after getting clearance from FIFA.

An entertaining first half saw both teams unable to take their chances, as it ended 0-0 after 45 minutes, with Manny Ott closest to breaking the deadlock at the 37th minute.

Another remarkable second half performance from the Azkals would see them take a 2-0 lead after 74 minutes to see off the Yemeni challenge, with Man of the Match Misagh Bahadoran and Iain Ramsay getting on the score sheet.

After two matches, the Azkals lie in second place in Group H, just behind early leaders North Korea on goal difference.
Here are five things we learned from the Azkals victory.

1. Misagh Bahadoran is on fire


Two goals from two games are not bad returns by any means for a striker, but for someone like Misagh who has been consistently inconsistent the past few seasons, those two goals against Bahrain and Yemen must have felt like cold water on a hot Manila day.

Once dubbed derisively as “Lord Misagh” when he struggled to put in a good shift for the national team, Bahadoran has now become nothing short of a cult icon among fans.

The Man of the Match performance against Yemen has everybody drooling over his form –– and has everybody queuing up LGR offices for a #9 Lord Misagh Azkals shirt.

Schrock’s injury has gone largely unnoticed and is due in large part to the Global FC team captain who has shown tremendous improvement and maturity in recent months.

2. Javier Patino is not just ‘Patigol,’ he is also ‘Pati-assist’ Marquez

That Azkals striker Javier Patiño can score goals in bundles has never been in doubt; fans have seen him score for his club teams Buriram United and Henan Jiaye.

That Patiño can also dish out quality assists was perhaps not something most fans were aware of. Against Yemen, he not only displayed his usual attacking verve to lead the attack but also showed fans another dimension of his game by giving out two passes that led to two Azkals goals.

At the 52nd minute, he combined with Bahadoran who unleashed an unstoppable shot. At the 74th minute, a very quick Azkals counterattack saw Patiño break on the right side. The Filipino-Spanish quickly found the onrushing Iain Ramsay for the Azkals’ second goal.

3. Azkals not relying just on Phil Younghusband


The days of Phil Younghusband carrying the scoring workload all of the Azkals by himself seem to be over.

The return of Javier Patiño to assume the No. 9 role has allowed Younghusband to drop deeper in midfield, where he can cut a more influential figure on the pitch.

The emergence of Bahadoran and Rmsay has eased the burden on the Azkals’ all-time leading goal scorer — Phil can still bang in the goals, but now he has more help.

The last two Azkals victories came with Younghusband not needing to be on the score sheet. If anything, it bodes well for Philippine football that the team is getting more help in the scoring department.

4. Spare a thought for Yemen

The Philippines can certainly relate.

Very much like the Azkals in the 2010 Suzuki Cup, Yemen has been forced to play their home matches away from their capital city of Sana’a but for totally different reasons.

War in the country has entailed that Yemen play their home matches in Doha, Qatar which is normally a two hour plane ride away. With turmoil in the region, the team was forced to forego air travel and had to ride a boat.

The Indian Express writes: “With the country involved in a bloody war with Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s national team head Husam Al Sanabani said they were left with no other option but to travel by sea.”

“It’s a treacherous stretch of water that has already been braved by thousands since the war began. But the long detour meant they first had to undertake the 13-hour boat journey to Djibouti, followed by a five-hour flight from the tiny African nation to Doha.”

“We had three options. Flights were not possible as the airports are shut. It was unsafe to cross the border by road as there is constant firing. So the only option left for us was to travel by sea. It was a dangerous route and the players were brave enough to accept our suggestion,” Yemen national team head Husam Al Sanabani said as quoted by the Indian Express.

To make matters worse, they have no idea how they will return to their homeland. After all that Yemen has been through, it is already a minor miracle that they are able to play and compete on the field.

All of these factors make Yemen a dangerous side to come up against, with the extra motivation they certainly have to perform.

The Azkals came away with a 2-0 victory, but look to find most neutrals rooting for Yemen if turmoil there remains unresolved.

5. New guys did well for the Azkals

Somewhat lost in all the excitement about Bahadoran and Patiño were the Azkals debuts of Iain Ramsay, Stephen Palla, Luke Woodland, Dennis Villanueva and Kevin Ingreso.

Ramsay took over the number 7 shirt from James Younghusband and did justice to the shirt as he capped off a brilliant display with his first international goal for the team.

Palla is listed as a defender, but he was given a more forward role for the Azkals as he ably supported the attack.

Woodland’s clearance papers came through in time for the game against Yemen. And on the field the 19-year-old was as good as advertised, putting in a solid performance at centerback in a three man defense.

Villanueva’s excellent performances for club side Global FC were rewarded with a call-up to the national while Ingreso made his much-awaited debut, albeit with time winding down on the clock.

It will not be our last time to see these new faces; many hope they will represent the country for a long time to come.

Ryan Fenix is’s resident football analyst. His football column Rampaging Fullback appears exclusively on the site. He runs the football blog The Prawn Sandwich Brigade and covers football for Sports5. For more football discussion, follow him on Twitter.

Azkals Achieve Highest Ever FIFA World Ranking

Azkals Achieve Highest Ever FIFA World Ranking

The Philippines National Football Team reached its highest world ranking in history in FIFA World Cup at 124th, just according to the release of FIFA World Rankings recently. The country’s previous high at 127th was set in 2013.

The Philippines is one of twenty eight teams that have managed to move up more than ten places on the latest edition of the list, tied with Moldova and just behind Kuwait…

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Rampaging Fullback: Dissecting the Azkals’ historic win over Bahrain in FIFA World Cup qualifiers: Marquez

On the eve of the country’s 117th Independence Day, the Philippines national men’s football team took to the field parading what is touted to be its ‘best team ever.’

The occasion would be the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, which doubles as the 2019 Asian Cup Qualifiers.

The opposition would come in Bahrain, a team the Azkals have never previously beaten and ranked 21 places above in the FIFA rankings.

A host of new names reinforced the Azkals, namely Iain Ramsay (formerly of Melbourne City), Luke Woodland and Stephen Palla (Wolfsberger AC). Javier Patino, Neil Etherdige and Stephan Schrock also returned to the line-up to add more firepower.

Preparation, however, was far from ideal as potential friendlies between other teams were cancelled and the Azkals had to make do instead with a friendly with a select UFL squad.

First half struggle Marquez

In the first half, the lack of match practice showed, even as Azkals coach Thomas Dooley fielded his new 3-4-3 system which saw Daisuke Sato, Rob Gier and Jerry Lucena at the back in front of Neil Etheridge.

Phil Younghusband was deployed in the quarterback role and he was at the heart of every Azkals move. Patino was supported by Ramsay and Schrock up front, while Martin Steuble and Palla commandeered the wings.

Even with the star names, the Azkals struggled in the early stages of the game.

The defense looked uncomfortable as Bahrain pumped high balls over the backline for the defenders to chase — the Azkals’ lack of pace at the back exposed for everyone to see. On many occasions, the defense was as disorganized as the cheers of the cheering squads in attendance.

The Azkals attack looked blunt and disjointed with the midfield unable to link up with the front three. Things went from bad to worse as Schrock had to come off at the 22nd minute, making way for Misagh Bahadoran.

Yet, it was 0-0 at the half.

Phil at the heart of attack Marquez

Whatever the half-time team talk was, it worked well for the Azkals as a dizzying 10-minute spell saw the Philippines take an incredible 2-0 lead against Bahrain.

Azkals captain Younghusband, clearly relishing his new role, proved that he can pass as well as he can score, providing the assist to Misagh Bahadoran for his — and the Azkals’ — first goal of the game.

Bahadoran and Patino’s time Marquez

Let’s spare a thought for Misagh.

Derided by fans for his occasional frustrating display on the field — head down and taking on the defenders only to lose the ball or dribbling too long instead of making the pass — his inability to put the ball at the back of the net has led to fans derisively calling him “Lord Misagh.”

After his stellar performance versus Bahrain which saw him almost net a brace had his free header been on target, there can be no doubt that when fans call him ‘Lord Misagh’, it is now meant in the most positive way.

How about Patino? Marquez

Absent in previous Azkals tournaments, fans have questioned the Henan Jianye hitman’s commitment, even going as far as saying he only got his Filipino passport to be eligible to play in the Asian Leagues as an AFC Player.

Against Bahrain, Patino showed us what we have been missing. A true number nine, his presence at the tip of the Azkals attack allowed Phil Younghusband to turn as a provider — a role that he has thrived in for club Loyola Meralco Sparks.

The Azkals have to learn from the last-minute goal that they conceded, giving Bahrain a glimmer of hope. Etheridge will no doubt had a word with his teammates; it was an unnecessary goal to concede where the Azkals seemed to switch off.

Crowd could be louder Decena

Finally, a word on the Philippine Sports Stadium.

It is a fantastic stadium, but greater efforts must be exerted to ensure that at least three-fourths of it is full for a World Cup qualifying match. To see large swathes of empty seats is disappointing, especially with the Azkals at full strength.

An attendance of 6,000 fans — while a positive step on a weekday with no immediate public transport access — is a far cry from the 25,000 the stadium can hold.

Greater effort must also be exerted to synchronize the several booster squads in attendance. Two sets of drums sitting close together and each going their separate beat not only smacks of lack of coordination, it is annoying and an assault to the senses.

The Ultras Filipinas make tremendous noise throughout the game, but the cavernous nature of the stadium makes it difficult for them to be heard on the other side. It is hoped, yet again, that all groups band together to create an intimidating atmosphere, wherever the home game will be played.

Yemen away is up next and the Azkals, even without Schrock, will be in a confident mood. Victory against Bahrain is history; the Azkals need to channel all efforts to ensure we get another famous victory.