November 30, 2012: Today, at exactly 8:20PM, the big battle that will kick-through the AZKALS in the semis will be played against the mighty and equally strong national team of Myanmar. Eager, die-hard, and fanatic fans from different parts of the country and even overseas Filipinos who are boldly supporting the national team are gunning to watch the inevitable clash inside the green field of Supachalasai Stadium in Bangkok. The clash deemed to be their ticket to the semis is a highly anticipated event for football lovers like me. AZKALS are expected to bring out all their guns to level-up to a team they never have defeated before.
While Thailand sealed-off their slot for the final four, our AZKALS are in the best position of the three remaining countries to make it through the semi-finals of the 2012 SUZUKI CUP. But before hurdling the obstacle tonight at past 8pm, they have in my opinion the toughest job any team in SUZUKI never had. It is to BEAT Myanmar.
In the past twelve times the Philippines has played against Myanmar, including when their opposition was known as Burma before, the Azkals managed four draws and lost the other eight games. They came only seconds away from their win during the ACC Challenge Cup qualification as the Azkals were leading 1-0 through a James Younghusband penalty, until Khin Maung Lwin fired in a free-kick in injury time.
|Myanmar - National Team|
The difference now is that while our team didn't overthrown Myanmar, they did qualify for the main stage of the Challenge Cup, while Myanmar didn't, despite hosting the Qualification group. Going on to finish third in the tournament, defeating two former Champions of the competition in the process, the Philippines has overtaken Myanmar in rankings and prestige as the old order has been swept away.
Coach Michael Weiss of Azkals, whisked-off the idea of a possible draw tonight. He strongly enthused that the boys should play at their highest level to secure a win over the threatening Burmese. Even if a draw is good enough to put them through, it is not an option running in coach Michael Weiss' mind.
They have survived one of the powerhouses team of SEA - Vietnam. Confidence level boosting at par from their previous win against the Vietnamese, they should capitalize their new found strength and convert all their plans into goals.
Banking on their various international exposures and friendly games against the heavy weights of the Middle East, I believe they have learned lots of prowess and techniques that they can use to stun the commanding Burmese. But having known Myanmar with long standing football history, it seems they do not tolerate failure to meet their high standards though. Firing coach every coach if they see no improvements in their pool of players.
The AZKALS rise to stardom and popularity rooted from their stunning victory against Vietnam in SUZUKI CUP 2010 played in the home court of the Vietnamese which stunned the crowd in disbelief. And beating Vietnam for the second time put our national team in the position to qualify for the final four.
But Azkals will still need to rewrite the history books to assure themselves of qualification though. In case they survived the revenge of the Burmese, they are guaranteed at least second place in the group, but a loss will see Azkals in a major crash-out.
If they managed a draw, the AZKALS will be throbbingly waiting for the news between Vietnam and Thailand as a Vietnam win would see whoever has the better goal difference qualify.
It's like the lyrics in the song "The heat is on Miss Saigon"-hehehe...it's nerve-cracking, riveting, and exciting. As of this writing, I already book myself as a prayer warrior for our national team.
Through their recent form and some impressive results, the Philippines has risen to their highest FIFA ranking ever at 143 in the world. Myanmar's highest ranking ever was 97, but that rank was back in year 1996. The good news is that the Philippines HAS NOW BEEN AHEAD of Myanmar since 2011.
The battle is on! The fans are waiting (including myself). Who will raise their national flag after the game? Who will shout out in their loudest and most boisterous voices after the head to head hunt for the semi-final slot? Will it be the fans coming from the 7,107 islands or the fans from the country formerly known as BURMA.
Let the games begin!
AZKALS..................We Believe.......Go Fight Win!