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Azkals keen to revive Qualifiers campaign against struggling Yemen

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The Philippines’ men’s national football team, simply known as the Azkals, are raring to get back on track in the 2018 FIFA World Cup/2019 AFC Asian Cup joint Qualifiers. The Filipinos are set to host Yemen on Thursday evening at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium, hoping to clinch important three points following an array of disappointing results.

The Filipinos have only grabbed a point out of the last nine available, with huge setbacks against Uzbekistan and Bahrain sandwiching a monumental draw away to North Korea. The recent three-game stretch has hampered the Azkals, whose recent results contrast a start in which they won two games. One of those early victories came against Yemen, the team the Philippines have next on schedule. The score was 2-0 for the Azkals, who pounced late in the second half with strikes by Misagh Bahadoran and Iain Ramsay. A quick recall of that match suggests that the Azkals dominated the play at the neutral venue at Doha, with the Arab side having a few moments of their own.

Many Azkals fans might find delight in facing Yemen and are perhaps expectant of another win. The upcoming foes bear an unenviable record of zero wins, zero draws, and five losses so far in the second round of their campaign. To make matters worse for the Yemenis, they have yet to find a single goal in their last six joint Qualifiers matches. The last time they scored was during a 3-1 win against Pakistan in the first leg of the opening round of the Qualifiers, which took place eight months ago. If they are to pose a threat to the Filipinos, they would need to find that scoring touch soon.

Should they not score, however, they can still frustrate their Southeast Asian counterparts by keeping a clean sheet to get at least a point out of it.  The Yemenis have been decent in defense, holding current group favorites North Korea (0-3 score was due to forfeiture) and Uzbekistan to single-goal wins. It was against the Azkals and neighbors Bahrain where they lost their bearings and capitulated two and four-goal defeats respectively. Entering the match with nothing to lose, Yemen might find the groove to pull an upset against the dream-chasing Azkals.

Azkals Huddle

On the other end, the Azkals know that for them to get to as far as they want to in this campaign, there is no more room for mistakes. The third-placed Philippines sit just a point above Bahrain and are two points behind second-placed Uzbekistan. With three games to go, the Filipinos can still keep the hopes of advancing to the next round alive by defeating winless Yemen at home. On paper, it looks to be a comfortable second-round match for the Azkals, but they should be know they cannot afford any complacency given the circumstances.

Looking at the 23-man lineup fielded by Thomas Dooley, a notable addition is Javier Patino. The striker is back after missing the exhausting five-day trip from Pyongyang to Riffa, which saw the Azkals collect just a point without any goals to their names. His return will boost the firepower up front, as he is expected to take the field alongside the likes of Stephan Schrock, Ramsay, and Bahadoran. In defense, Dooley will have plenty of options. The German-American coach has a string of fine defenders to choose from now that Simone Rota has recovered from injury. Daisuke Sato and Jerry Lucena have looked comfortable in their wingback roles, while goalkeeping options have never been a problem. Phil Younghusband, suspended after accumulating yellow cards, will be missed – but not as much as the depth of the squad is stacked in the middle of the park.


The prediction is a walk-in-the-park affair for the Philippines, who will probably repeat the result of five months ago in Doha. However pleasing that is to assume for Azkals fans, the match starts at 0:0 and there are 90 minutes to be played and won. Presented with a perfect opportunity to regain their footing on the road to Russia and UAE, the Azkals will be eager to reinstate belief by getting the job done against an opponent they cannot afford to underestimate.

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Christian Standhardinger goes perfect from stripe in Hong Kong’s rout of Formosa

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After going a horrid 5-for-17 from the stripe during their first loss of the season last January 9, Christian Standhardinger made sure to make good on his free throws to power the Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Club to a dominant 99-79 rout of the Formosa Dreamers, Thursday evening in Southorn Stadium.

The 6-foot-8 Filipino-German, who tallied 37 points and 19 rebounds in the overtime loss to Saigon, went a perfect 9-for-9 from the foul line. He finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds.

The contest itself was not close, as the defending champions were able to impose their will on the bottom-ranked squad, leading by as much as 23 points, 93-70, after two free throws by Standhardinger with 2:58 remaining.

If Standhardinger was having a good day with his free throws, the entire Formosa squad could not say the same, going 13-of-27 from the line.

Tyler Lamb had 25 markers as well for Hong Kong, while Ryan Moss grabbed a triple-double with 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists.

Lenny Daniel paced Formosa with 25 points and 11 rebounds. World Import Ronnie Aguilar had 14 points and 16 rebounds but went just 5-for-14 from the field.

With the win, Hong Kong goes to 8-1, while the Dreamers fell to 1-8.

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2018 FIBA 3X3 World Cup

Chooks-to-Go President hopes 3×3 World Cup breaks Philippine Arena record

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Last October 27, 2017, Game Seven of the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals between heated rivals Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and Meralco Bolts saw 54,083 people troop to the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan. The attendance broke all records for both the venue and the PBA.

Come June this year, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and Chooks-to-Go are hoping that the upcoming 2018 FIBA 3×3 World Cup will surpass that record.

“We look at 3×3 as our best hope, really, to get a medal in the Olympics. Kami naman sa Chooks, we are behind SBP realizing that dream. Kanina pinag-uusapan na, if we’re going to break the record in attendance,” said Bounty Agro Ventures Inc. president Ronald Mascariñas on Thursday afternoon during a press conference held at BGC High Street in Taguig.

“I think the question there is not if we’re going to break, but how many more times. Because FIBA should see how passionate the Filipinos are about basketball. That’s a given,” one of the patrons of Gilas Pilipinas added.

Besides the event itself, the local government of Bulacan has pledged to make the week of the tournament filled with activities to celebrate the Philippines’ 120th year of Independence.

For their part, Chooks-to-Go vowed to help out the SBP in organizing the event and in building the team.

“We are throwing our support not to improve on our finish, but we want to help SBP organize, to win the championship — not just to improve our ranking,” Mascariñas shared.

And the experience he and his company gained after backing the Pilipinas 3×3 team during last year’s tournament will only help.

“In past tournaments, we’ve lost some games na maninipis lang talaga,” he recalled about the team composed of Kobe Paras, Kiefer Ravena, Jeron Teng, and JR Quinahan that competed in Nantes, France.

“This time around, with five months to go, we need to organize and put in the best t

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Football

Ilocos United takes leave from PFL

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Another one bites the dust

After months of speculation, Ilocos United has formally announced their absence from the Philippines Football League for the 2018 season.

A statement signed by Ilocos Chief Executive Officer Tony Lazaro and posted on the club’s Facebook page broke the big news.

“Unfortunately, after months of negotiation, efforts to attract a new naming sponsor for the Team were unsuccessful,” the statement opened. “Consequently, it has become financially prohibitive to continue participation in the PFL.

“Primarily, the lack of broadcasting exposure in 2017 created an apprehension in the corporate community, cascading into a series of afflictions that has ultimately led to our withdrawal from the competition.”

Ilocos finished last during the inaugural season, tallying 1 win, 6 draws, and 21 losses with a -49 goal differential.

Still, Ilocos gave their thanks to those who supported the club during the inaugural PFL season.

“We are cautiously optimistic of a potential return to the PFL for the 2019 season, whereby secured broadcasting exposure will hopefully lead to higher confidence from potential sponsorship partners.”

While their PFL operations will fold for the time being, Ilocos will continue the grassroots programs they have started within the area. ¨In the meantime, the foundation of football development we helped to build in Ilocos will continue, including grassroots initiatives at local schools, women’s futsal, Special Olympics, and, of course, the IUFC Academy.¨

The latest development will be another big blow for the young league. Meralco Manila pulled out of the competition beforehand, and now Ilocos´ absence leaves only six teams in the competition.

Now more than ever, something needs to be done by the PFL or even the Philippine Football Federation to ensure the feasibility of the clubs and the league itself for years to come.

Football is a hard sport to build in the Philippines despite its resurgence since 2010. There are limited corporate boosters for the sport which is in dire need of a financial push to sustain its growth.

Ilocos´ leave and Meralco´s folding now forces local football´s stakeholders to take a step back and examine the next moves to build the sport.

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CJ Perez, Jaycee Marcelino in unison: D-League is a whole other level

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After falling just two games short of copping Lyceum’s first-ever NCAA crown, the Pirates went to the PBA D-League to gain experience. However, in their first foray in the second league, the Lyceans realized that it was a whole different beast.

Going up against the veteran-laden Marinerong Pilipino Skippers, the Zark’s Burgers-backed squad suffered a slow start as they adjusted to the tougher calls of the league. The Jawbreakers were down by as much as 17 points early in the third frame, 37-54.

“Yung physicality hindi naman ako masyadong nagulat pero sa mental toughness, yung pagod ka na, tapos may babanggga pa sa ‘yo, ang iniisip ko kailangan mas maging tough,” admitted reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player CJ Perez.

“Nangangapa kami nung una lahat kasi first game namin ito, pati dito sa court na ‘to first game din namin,” added Jaycee Marcelino.

It served as a wake-up call. Adjusting on the fly, Perez and Marcelino rallied the Jawbreakers back — even fashioning multiple attempts to take over the contest late in the game. However, they fell short, 92-94.

“Binalik lang namin yung laro namin dati, pass the ball, hindi yung puro dribble, i-run lang namin yung plays,” shared Marcelino, as he and Perez combined to score 16 points in the final frame.

The 21-year-old Marcelino finished with a game-high 20 points on an efficient 7-of-9 shooting to go along with four rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block. The 24-year-old Perez added 19 points, five assists, two steals, and a block.

With their first game in the bag, the duo — and the rest of the Jawbreakers — now have the experience under their belts. And they plan to put in the work to prove that they belong.

“Sa NC naman kasi puro ka-level namin kalaro namin, dito puro beterano ang naglalaro,” said Marcelino. “Hindi talaga namin masabi na yung ginawa namin sa NC magagawa din namin dito.

“Mageextra work pa kami para masustain namin kung ano kami sa Lyceum.”

“It’s a good experience. Ibang iba pala talaga yung laro ng D-League sa NCAA,” expressed Perez, who is a consensus top three pick for the upcoming PBA Rookie Draft.

“Sobrang grateful kami na nakalaro na rin kami sa D-League.”

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