A Bizarre Evening in Philippine Football
“Upset and disappointed from all angles,” Neil Etheridge tweeted the morning of the Philippines versus Indonesia match. Up to that point, many were certain the Azkals’ number-one goalkeeper would start, having served his one-match suspension during the game against Malaysia on June 1st. So seeing a tweet like this was nothing short of brow-raising, and as much as anyone could speculate that it could be about something unrelated to football, who would we be kidding?
Roland Müller prepares to start for the Azkals as Neil Etheridge looks on
Rick Olivares shares an insider’s perspective in his blogpost, On that 2-2 draw between the Philippines & Indonesia. A mandatory read if you want to know more about what happened in the day leading up to the match.
We arrived at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium about an hour before kick-off. I separated from my friends and went straight to the Media Room in time for the press briefing, where we were also handed the players’ list of both teams. Sure enough, Roland Müller was the Azkals’ starting keeper while Neil was relegated to the substitution bench.
You don’t see Neil Etheridge in a bib very often
I didn’t get a look at the rest of the list before it was time for the photographers to take our places on the track. But didn’t think there would be many other changes. Dennis Cagara and Jerry Lucena, who had arrived in the country the night before, were expected by many to sit this match out on account of not having practiced with the rest of the team yet.
So when it was time for the players to file out, many were surprised to see Phil and James Younghusband taking their places on the bench as well. Dennis was going to start, alongside Roland, Denis Wolf, Paul Mulders, Rob Gier, Carli de Murga, Angel Guirado, Manny Ott, Jason Sabio, Marwin Angeles, and team captain Chieffy Caligdong.
The Azkals’ starting lineup in the match versus Indonesia
At the post-match press conference, Coach Hans Michael Weiss explained the logic behind the move. He needed to give others the chance to play. “What if [Neil, Phil, James, the other guys] aren’t available?” he said, due to injury or suspension sometime down the line. Fair enough. Just strange that even the players were blindsided by the last-minute decision.
The first half of the match was sluggish and scoreless for both teams. Weather-wise, what started off as a drizzle at kickoff had turned into a steady shower. It was in the second half where tensions flared and goals were made. Neil, the Younghusband brothers, and Jerry were in. Then, Misagh Bahadoran.
In minutes, Indonesia scored the first goal of the match.
Indonesian fans celebrate the first goal
A minute later, James Younghusband equalized.
James Younghusband scores the first goal for the Philippines
Azkals fans were still up on their feet in celebration when Indonesia responded with another goal not long after.
Another goal for Indonesia
Then, a bit of drama. What could have been attributed to a minor miscommunication between Chieffy and Indonesian team captain Ifran Bachdim turned into an uproar that ended with red cards for both team captains and Manny Ott.
Fortunately, Phil got the second goal for the Philippines, tying the game for a result that left plenty of spectators relieved but frustrated at the same time. It was only natural for fans to wonder “what if?” for many reasons that evening.
Phil Younghusband brings the score to 2-2
Full Time: Philippines 2-2 Indonesia
Back at the post-match press conference, James brushed the negatives aside and shared his thoughts:
Click on the image to watch the video
I believe it was Ryan Fenix who asked what they liked and didn’t like about the match. Though it seemed more appropriate for Coach Weiss to answer, he passed the mic on to Phil, who came up with this amusing reply:
Click on the image to watch the video
Tonight, the Azkals return to “The Kennel,” the nickname some fans gave Panaad Stadium in Bacolod. It’s the third and last FIFA international friendly for the meantime, and our team is up against Guam which ranks 194 in the world. That’s 45 rungs below the Philippines’ current 149.
While Chieffy and Manny will have to sit this game out on account of their red cards, you can expect that the Azkals will be gunning for a very strong finish.
Fans will not be disappointed. I’m pretty certain Neil Etheridge won’t be, either.
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Thanks as always to my PFF LOC boys Rick Olivares, Ebong Joson, Craig Burrows, Ritchie Gannaban, JP Manahan, Mikhail de Guzman, and Coco Torre.