On This Day: The AFC Asian Cup 2019 Qualifiers: Philippines Vs. Tajikistan

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3 years ago

3 years ago, we Filipino Football fans relive this moment. On the evening of March 27, 2018, the Philippine Azkals qualifies for one of the most prestigious football tournaments in Asia, the AFC Asian Cup. I was with my brothers on Ultras Filipinas and witnessed that game-changing moment. You can watch the video below for the full match.

From the weakest team to the Underdogs of Asia

The Philippine Azkals 2010 roster during the Miracle of Hanoi. L to R (standing): Borromeo, J. Younghusband, Etheridge, Araneta, Del Rosario, and Gier. L to R (seated): Barsales, J. De Jong, Greatwich, P. Younghusband, and Jónsson

We were the weakest team in South-East Asia. As the sport was starting to boom around then it became popular with the masses. From the Miracle of Hanoi to clashing with a few football nations around Asia in different tournaments, the Azkals proved their worth to make it into the big stage.

Hours before kick-off we gather up in front of a convenience store at 7-Eleven, at Cityland Vito Cruz, Manila facing the gates of the Philippine Sports Commission for the Corteo. Corteo means that the Ultras are coming, as we make noise outside once we enter the terraces.

For the short videos, click/tap on the links below to view more.

  • Ultras Filipinas x Corteo (Part 1)

  • Ultras Filipinas x Corteo (Part 2)

  • Ultras Filipinas x Corteo (Part 3)

  • Ultras Filipinas x Corteo (Part 4)

  • Ultras Filipinas x Corteo (Part 5)

A night of epic proportions

It was a scoreless first half, as both teams made tremendous efforts to score a goal, but Akhtam Nazarov scored a penalty in the 64th minute when Kevin Ingreso took down Davronov Nuriddin inside the penalty area. Only 26 minutes remaining as the Azkals tried to find a weak spot after numerous efforts.

On the 73rd minute, Phil Younghusband passes the ball to Iain Ramsay then crosses it from the left looking for Kevin Ingreso. With a flick of his head, making the score tied to all 1. 16 minutes left before the final whistle when the Azkals attempts to score, but Tajikistan was called for a handball at the 88th Minute.

Phil Younghusband takes the penalty kick as he attempts for his 50th International Goal. The Philippines are on the lead with 2 goals to 1 and Phil caps off his 50th International Goal. Before the final whistle, there was a commotion on the end of the pitch, after cooling off their heads Fathuloev Fathullo and Dennis Villanueva were sent off with red cards.

Phil after taking his 50th International Goal

As the final whistle blows, it was a sweet victory. The Azkals won 2 goals to 1 and qualifies for the AFC Asian Cup 2019. Scoreless first-half, Tajikistan conceded first a goal, then we answered back not one, but 2 goals in favor of Kevin Ingreso & Phil Younghusband. We celebrated outside the stadium as part of our tradition.

For the celebration videos, click/tap on the links below to view more.

  • Ultras Filipinas Pyro Celebration (Part 1)

  • Ultras Filipinas Pyro Celebration (Part 2)

Asan na sila? (Where are they now?) The men behind the Qualifying Match for the AFC Asian Cup 2019.

Years after the Miracle of Hanoi, and numerous meetings with other Asian countries from different tournaments, most members of the Philippine National Football Team are now retired, others continued to play for the Philippines Football League, or in other countries from their respective domestic leagues. Let's find out where they at right now.

  • Neil Etheridge - the current Goalkeeper of the Azkals since 2010, and currently plays for Birmingham City FC in the EFL Championships.

  • Simeone Rota - He received his first call up for the Azkals in February 2014, and made his first appearance in a friendly match against Malaysia on March 1, 2014. Simeone currently plays for Kaya FC - Iloilo in the Philippines Football League.

  • Carli de Murga - the Spaniard started his career playing for the Tercera Division, then moved to the Philippines years later and previously played for Global FC and Ceres FC (now United City FC) in the United Football League and turned to the Philippines Football League. He currently plays for Terengganu FC as Captain in the Malaysian Super League.

  • Manny Ott - From Bundesliga to the United Football League in the Philippines. With his tenure at Ceres FC, he made contributions to the club's international scene at the AFC Cup. When the club was under new management, he and his brother were retained by the new owners. Now, Manny signs for Melaka United after leaving United City FC.

  • Mike Ott - Manny's younger brother, currently plays for United City FC in the Philippines Football League since 2018 when the club was undergoing management change during the pandemic.

  • Iain Ramsay - Before he joined the Azkals, he was eligible to play for 3 different countries: Australia, Scotland, and the Philippines since his father was Scottish, his mother was a Filipina but born in the land down under. Until he was called up to play for our country in May 2015. Iain currently plays for PT Prachuap FC in the Thai League.

  • Misagh Bahadoran - The Persian forward who previously played for Global FC in the United Football League, until the club was eternally banned for participating in the tournament because of a controversy making the club to step down in the league. Until he made his appearance last year in the Philippines Football League playing for Maharlika Manila FC.

  • Phil Younghusband - A reserve for Chelsea FC in the Premier League, but was called up by our country when he and his brother James, were discovered in a football management game simulator. Phil is now retired in the world of football since November 18, 2019, as he focuses his time with his family, and was recently featured on Oh my Goal!.

  • Daisuke Sato - From the Urawa Red Diamonds of the J.League to play for the United Football League under Global FC. Years later, he went to sign for Politehnica Iași in Romania, then Horsens in Denmark, back again at Romania to play for Sepsi OSK. Now, Daisuke-san currently plays for Muangthong United in the Thai League.

  • Dennis Villanueva - a pure Filipino but born and raised in Rome, Italy to Filipino parents, then previously played for United City FC in the Philippines Football League, Now, Dennis currently plays for Nakhon Ratchasima FC in the Thai League.

  • Kevin Ingreso - the former midfielder of Ceres FC but eventually returned in 2017 to play for the Philippines Football League. Now, Kevin plays for Buriram United in the Thai League.

Thomas Dooley

Thomas Dooley - the man behind the sides of that fateful night of March 27, 2018. The former defensive midfielder and captain of the United States National Team served as head coach of the Azkals from 2014 to March 31, 2018, which his contract ended after the historic match.

The Aftermath?

Terry Butcher

After Dooley's departure as head coach since his contract was not renewed, Terry Butcher was supposed to replace him as head coach of the Azkals, but he announced on August 2, 2018, that he will not take the role because it is not the right time for him to be the gaffer of our national team.

Sven-Göran Eriksson

Scott Cooper took over as head coach until Sven-Göran Eriksson became the new head coach months after Butcher's resignation since Sven & Scott previously worked together for Leicester City FC.

Sven's 1st tournament as head coach was the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018, with wins over Singapore and Timor-Leste, draws with Thailand and Indonesia as the country ended 2nd place in Group B. But we were defeated by the Golden Dragons on aggregate of March 6, 2018, during the Semi-Finals of the tournament.

For the full story of our stint at the AFC Asian Cup 2019, click/tap here to read more. After the country's debut, Sven left the national team but continues to serve as a consultant for the team.

It's been 3 years after that fateful night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, as I was ranting over on my memories on Facebook, when will this pandemic end? My feet are itching right now because I wanted to see my brothers again as we watch the beautiful game live in the terraces. As we sing along again for our team, and our motherland.

We are a hoop nation but were able to make a ticket to qualify for one of the most prestigious football tournaments in the world. I'm hoping for this sport to grow for years to come, and for the new generation while I share the story of how Football evolved for the past 11 years, until my last breath.

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