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Azkals claim semifinals ticket after historic manhandling of Indonesia

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Hanoi’s My Dinh Stadium hosted another momentous occasion for the Philippines after the Azkals humiliated Indonesia, whom they defeated for the first time in history, 4-0, to book a spot in the semifinals of the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup as they notched their second win in as many games in the regional tournament.

The Azkals capitalized on Indonesia’s defensive lapses to score an emphatic victory, although the Indonesians almost made the Filipinos pay just inside the second minute if not for Daisuke Sato’s off-the-line clearance. Another concern for the Philippines was Juani Guirado, who pulled his hamstring. Mainstay captain Rob Gier came on to fill the void of the Fil-Spanish defender.

The game’s opening 15 minutes were futile except during the latter part of the period when Misagh Bahadoran took advantage of Firman Utina’s lazy back pass and sprinted towards the Indonesian box. He was brought down wrongly and earned the Philippines a golden chance to go ahead. Phil Younghusband made no mistake by smashing it to the corner with much pace and power to put the Azkals on top.

Indonesia failed to level the score in the first half, with the closest chance coming from Sergio van Dijk who blew a header wide in the 31st minute. Erstwhile, the Philippines had most of the chances but nothing was more threatening than Simone Rota almost emulating the goal he scored three days ago against Laos. A moment of madness almost resulted in a disastrous own goal by Sato but Patrick Deyto was alert to parry his headed clearance from the towering van Dijk.

Only a goal separated the Philippines and Indonesia at halftime with the Indonesians eager to equalize right from the resumption of play. Van Dijk misdirected Zulham’s corner four minutes after the restart. They were left to rue what could have been when Bahadoran threaded a pass to Manuel Ott. The Fil-German then belted a screamer against a helpless Kurnia Meiga and straight to the top corner to double the Azkals’ lead.

Indonesia coach Alfred Riedl sent on Cristian Gonzalez, the man who scored the dream-ending goals against the Philippines back in 2010, with the hope of boosting the Garudas’ attack. Instead, it was the Philippines who scored the next goal. Threatening to score a third goal, the Filipinos were rewarded in the 68th minute when the Indonesians were caught off guard as they were resenting the referee’s decision to award a free kick. Meiga grabbed a ball off what was ruled a back pass which resulted in a free kick. Acknowledging the referee had signalled play to resume, Phil tapped the ball to Martin Steuble who hammered a goal much to the despair of the Indonesians.

It had gone from bad to worse five minutes after when Rizki Pora was given a red card for tripping a rushing Younghusband who had the goal in his sights. The Philippines’ record goalscorer almost made it four if not for Meiga keeping out his solid 35-yard free kick attempt. The fourth goal eventually arrived in the 79th minute when Gier stuck his leg out to successfully rebound his initial attempt that struck the post.

The Indonesians looked for a consolation to no avail as the Philippines saw out the remaining 11 minutes of action en route to a result that will go down in the record books.

The Philippines will play their last game of the group stage on Friday, November 28, against hosts Vietnam whom they have beaten in the two previous editions of the tournament. Avoiding defeat would be huge for the Azkals who would emerge as the top team of Group A. Kickoff time is at 7pm local time (8pm Philippine time).

Image used with permission from AFFSuzukicup.com

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FEU

Rose Vargas all set for UAAP return after four-season absence

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In an unprecedented move, hard-hitting Far Eastern University spiker Rose Vargas will return to finish her UAAP career when Season 80 kicks off on February 3 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

Vargas last played for the Lady Tamaraws in Season 75. With a year of eligibility left, Vargas left the Morayta-based program to focus on her academics and pursue a career in the semi-pro ranks.

Five years since her last UAAP game, Vargas says that she did not hesitate when FEU officials asked if she wanted to return to play out her final year of eligibility.

During her time in the V-League, she played for the Cagayan Valley Rising Suns, the Pocari Sweat Lady Warriors, the Bureau of Custom Transformers, and, most recently, the Creamline Cool Smashers.

“‘Yung pag-babalik naman dito (FEU) is hindi ko naman pinag-isipan matagal or nag-dalawang isip ako,” said the Season 74 Best Scorer. “Noong tinanong lang sa akin kung gusto ko daw bumalik, ang sagot ko lang, oo.

“Kasi gusto kong makatulong, and gusto kong makuha ‘yung championship namin na matagal ng hindi nakukuha ng FEU.”

Vargas adds to an already solid FEU core which includes graduating captain Bernadeth Pons, Toni Rose Basas, and Jerrili Malabanan.

The last time Vargas suited up for FEU, she was the main piece to a core that included Mari Toni Basas — Toni Rose’s older sister, a young Remy Palma, Gyzelle Sy, and Tin Agno.

Vargas now sees herself as more of a complimentary piece, the hardened veteran looking to guide FEU’s younger guns in a season where much if expected of them.

“Ngayon, nadagdagan siguro yung maturity and ko, pagiging veteran daw, sabi, na pwede ko mai-share din sa mga bata ‘yun, as a leader, as an ate,” added Vargas.

“Nako-contribute ko kung anong knowledge ang natutunan ko.”

League insiders are confident that Vargas, who turned 25-year-old on December 12 last year, will be declared eligible to play in Season 80. Although the UAAP is yet to have their eligibility meeting this week, a source closely monitoring the situation expressed confidence that Vargas will pass the league’s eligibility rules.

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Basketball

23 for 2023 cadet CJ Perez honored to help out Gilas

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Having had the chance to represent the Philippines in FIBA-sanctioned cagefests such the Asia Challenge Cup and the 3X3 All-Stars back in 2016, Lyceum Pirates star CJ Perez is no stranger to the international stage.

But the 24-year-old do-it-all swingman admits that he still gets overwhelmed whenever he sees his seniors — the stars and pillars of the program — in the team. “Nasusurprise [pa rin] ako,” he said. “Mga professionals eh.

“Na-istarstruck pa rin ako sa kanila.”

Perez said so when he finally made his return within Gilas’ realms last Monday night. The last time he was with the National Team was in August 2016, when the SBP built an amateur-laden batch of Gilas cagers that served as the transition from the 2016 Olympic Qualifiers squad to the 2017 SEABA team.

“Sobrang grateful ako (sa invitation),” said the talented six-foot-two guard, after practice at the Meralco Gym.

The reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player is back in the fold for Gilas as his name, along with young, up-and-coming stars, was included in the 23 for 2023 pool — a list of cagers projected to be the contingent for the Manila-hosted World Cup.

“Iniisip ko yun (FIBA World Cup 2023) simula magtawag sila ng practice. Actually nandoon na yung utak ko eh,” the Lyceum Pirate ace bared. “Kailangan ko lang mag work hard pa para makapasok dun sa lineup na yun, kahit malayo pa.

“It’s an honor para ma-represent yung country.”

Unlike in 2016, Perez graced the court and took part in drills with the veterans such as Gabe Norwood, Japeth Aguilar, June Mar Fajardo, among others. With those type of players around him, he feels that the lessons he can get will be limitless.

“Oo sobra. Kahit kanino naman (matututo ka talaga),” Perez shared. “(At tsaka) Dito parang more on sa mental. ‘Di na iniisip yung conditioning kasi may ibang teams naman sila so about sa mental toughness [talaga].”

For now, the 23 for 2023 cadets are already working out not just for familiarity, but also to help the seniors in preparing for the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers this February.

“Sobrang happy and grateful na nakakatulong ako sa kanila kahit sa simpleng practice lang.”

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ABL

Blistering Mikey Williams takes home Heritage Import of the Week honor

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Photo from ASEAN Basketball League

The resurgent Saigon Heat have been the thorn to topflight clubs teams Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Club and Nanhai Kung Fu, handing both squads their first losses in the eighth season of the ASEAN Basketball League. The Heat would not have done it without Filipino-American import Mikey Williams.

Williams, a 6-foot-2 guard out of Cal State Fullerton, dropped 39 points on 14-for-25 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and nine assists in Saigon’s 121-115 overtime win over Hong Kong.

The former NBA G-Leaguer followed it up with a sensational 24-point, five-rebound, and seven-assist outing in their 96-93 win over Kung Fu.

Overall, the 26-year-old guard averaged 31.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, and 1.0 steals to edge out fellow Filipino AJ Mandani of the Singapore Slingers for the weekly award.

For the Local Player of the Week, two Alab Pilipinas stalwarts were the runners-up for the crown.

Reigning local Most Valuable Player Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. and his floor general Josh Urbiztondo had stellar weeks that earned them honorable mentions.

Parks averaged 17.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists for the week that saw Alab lose to the Slingers at home last Wednesday before bouncing back on the road against the Mono Vampire last Sunday.

Urbiztondo, on the other hand, had norms of 14.5 points on a hot 9-for-17 clip from downtown.

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Football

Brazilian football legend Zico to visit Manila

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Contributed photos

One of the best to ever play the Beautiful Game is coming to the Philippines. Zico, who electrified the footballing world in the ’70s and ’80s, is slated to visit Manila on the weekend of January 27.

The Brazilian, whose real name is Arthur Antunes Coimbra, is considered one of the best footballers in the world during the late 70’s and early 80’s. Zico starred for the Brazilian national team, scoring 48 goals in 71 appearances for the Selecao. In 1999, the attacking midfielder came 8th in the FIFA Player of the Century grand jury vote, and in 2004 was named in FIFA’s list of the world’s greatest living players.

Zico played for legendary Brazilian club Flamengo and also for the Italian Serie A team Udinese. He finished his playing career suiting up for Kashima Antlers in the J-League, the top tier of Japanese football, leading them to an unlikely runner-up finish.

The 64-year-old also had a successful managerial career, leading Turkey’s Fenerbahce, Greek team Olympiacos, and CSKA Moscow to titles. Zico was also in charge of the Japanese national team when they won the AFC Asian Cup in 2004. Because of that accomplishment, Zico is one of the most beloved football figures in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Seven Seas Properties, a company that promotes Philippine real estate and Philippine stocks in the Japanese market, is bringing the football icon here.

“We are delighted to welcome Zico to the Philippines. I’m sure he will give a big boost to the growing football scene here,” says Seven Seas Properties President Yukihiro Nishimura.

Zico will attend a CSR event with young footballers from underprivileged communities on Saturday, January 27. The following day, Sunday January 28, he will lead a football clinic for elite young players and coaches in the McKinley Hill stadium in Taguig. Football fans and media are welcome to watch this event, which kicks off at 2:00 pm. Admission is free.

Zico in Manila is also made possible by Otsuka – Solar Philippines, Inter Sports Partners, AgriNurture, and Primex.

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