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Azkals stint a rollercoaster ride for Phil Younghusband

‘I’d like to say I got over 50 goals and 100 caps but to be honest I’m not thinking about that right now.’

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Imagine this: Phil Younghusband just scored the goal which sent the Philippines through to the 2018 World Cup. The Azkals captain scored the free kick after being fouled while running into the opposing team’s penalty area. Imagine that moment. At the final whistle, the whole Philippines is celebrating an achievement which was thought never to be possible. Fans in the stadium are rushing to be able to get a selfie with him. First thing he does after celebrating with his teammates is to look for his siblings, one of which James, shared the pitch with him while donning the national colors and playing in the UFL for the Loyola Meralco Sparks.

This moment may not occur anytime soon with the Philippines grouped against strong countries like Uzbekistan and North Korea, then again there’s nothing wrong in hoping for and visualizing that moment isn’t it?

Not that the man cares about personal glory that much. The Azkals striker turned midfielder has his sights set on victories for the team. Perhaps it was being made skipper which made him this way or the change of his position on the pitch which has developed this mindset. Regardless, it is great that arguably the most talented player of the Philippines has this selflessness in him. The game against Uzbekistan will be his 74th cap for the Philippines and he’s just eight goals shy of fifty for his country but he values team glory more now. “Honestly I would like to reach 50 goals but my priority is to see the team win. You know if I don’t score but the team qualifies for the Asian Cup, I’ll be over the moon. That’s the priority for me but you know when I look back at my career I’d like to say I got over 50 goals and 100 caps but to be honest I’m not thinking about that right now. I’m thinking about let’s get to the Asian Cup and getting as far as possible for the World Cup qualifiers” Younghusband said.

In Football, it is common for players who have aged to drop lower in terms of in-game position. We have seen it so many times with players like Steven Gerrard who played behind the striker at his peak eventually had a quarterback role in his later years. The same transformation is being seen with Younghusband.

Phil Younghusband 2

While said to be a central midfielder when he was at Chelsea, Azkals fans have seen him more as a striker. Not that the man has any qualms about his current role as a midfielder for the Azkals with longevity his aim. “As you get older you can’t cover the field as much you know. You can’t get up and down you know. When you see the natural progression of players, Dwight Yorke he was a striker then he got moved to defensive midfield, a lot of players move into positions where they can use their experience to their advantage to prolong their careers. I’d like to play as long as possible so hopefully that’s the case.”

Being played as a striker during the peak of his career with the Azkals and the Meralco Sparks, no one can begrudge Younghusband if his first instinct is to shoot first and ask questions later. He admitted that was in his head during the last World Cup qualifier against Yemen when the Azkals were 2-0 up and he used the free kick to score rather than to use a set-piece play used in training. Now however, he has to take a backseat and act as a playmaker compared to the striker he once was for the Azkals. “Obviously I like to be involved and work hard to score the goals but when you’ve got players that could create something out of nothing, you know I enjoy watching it as much as doing it. So it gives you confidence knowing you can play a simple ball to someone to one of the players knowing they can create something and produce a moment of brilliance that can win you the game and as I said I want to be part of the team that wins and whether I’m involved in the goal or not, as long as the team in winning then that’s the objective, that’s the goal.”

As the captain of the Azkals not only does Younghusband need to wear the armband and shoulder responsibility for the Philippines, he also has to make sure that the group has a strong team spirit. The Azkals had a bowling session for teambuilding and it turned out quite well for the skipper’s team. “My team won the bowling. I scored one 31 in the first game that got us to the final but I didn’t have such a good second game but overall we won which is the most important thing so it was good.” Even if there is a mixture of old and new faces, Younghusband states that everyone gets along well with each other. “The team spirit is good at the moment.”

The coach of Uzbekistan declared in their team’s press conference that Younghusband is the Azkal to watch out for. Mentioning past games like the post-2010 AFF Suzuki Cup one against Mongolia in Bacolod, Younghusband said that while being watched all the time flatters and makes it harder for him to play, space opens up more and his teammates can contribute more. “It does relief pressure knowing you can give the ball to someone and they can create something”, he adds. He then concluded that it’s not only him the Uzbeks have to watch out for but the ten men playing alongside him as well.

Phil Younghusband

Younghusband has been playing for the Philippines since his first South East Asian games up this point against a fearsome Uzbekistan. He notes that it has been one extreme to another, from irrelevance to the target of qualifying for the Asian Cup. From having no people watching the Azkals’s games to the target of filling up the Philippine Arena, it’s been a roller coaster ride for the skipper and he sure knows how big a part the FIlipino fans can play in a game.

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Lorenzo's a frustrated author who knows a thing or two about Football and Basketball. Went all green from Ortigas to Taft. Supports Liverpool FC, FC Bayern Munich and the Alaska Aces

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AU

Jovie Prado, Arellano make epic comeback against Perpetual to remain unscathed

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The defending NCAA Women’s Volleyball champions Arellano University Lady Chiefs would just not give up.

Down two sets, the Lady Chiefs turned back the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA Altas in five thrilling sets, 22-25, 19-25, 25-21, 25-20, 15-5, Tuesday afternoon at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

Outside hitter Jovielyn Prado and middle attacker Andrea Marzan showed up and produced their expected numbers in this crucial tussle at 20 and 16 points, respectively.

Head coach Obet Javier was still optimistic that his players can pull it off after the 0-2 hole. “Siyempre, kailangan mong magtiwala sa players mo,” he said.

The long-time coach added, “Nung first two sets, ang pangit ng laro namin. Siguro sa game, lumabas lang ‘yung maturity ng players ko at ‘yung pusong champion.”

It was a nip-and-tuck affair throughout the day, but the deciding set was all Arellano as setter Sarah Verutiao fired off vicious serves after another and virtually bag the win with a 10-1 lead.

The reigning queens at 6-0 will try to extend their longest winning run in the league to 19 when they face fellow unscathed San Beda College (5-0) on Friday.

Bianca Tripoli registered 20 markers to pace the Lady Altas.

Perpetual (4-2) will take on Mapua University (0-5) on Tuesday, January 30.

The Scores:

AU 3 – Prado 20, Marzan 16, Arocha 14, Ebuen 7, Esguerra 4, Ramirez 1, Bello 1, Balanoba 0, Donato 0, Flores L, Buema L.

UPHSD 2 – Tripoli 20, Imbo 19, Clements 12, Verzosa 6, Llorente 5, Gual 3, Sangalang 3, Estanislao 0, Rosal 0, Umandal 0, Medalla L.

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Basketball

Matt Nieto looks forward to learning from Jio Jalalon, Jayson Castro

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When Matt Nieto made his way into the Meralco Gym on Monday evening, the 20-year-old quickly changed his clothes after receiving his Gilas jersey. And once he got dressed, the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles’ floor general quickly went to work, as he wanted to absorb everything he can from the night’s session.

“Actually na-star struck ako. ‘Di ako makapaniwala na nandito ako eh,” expressed the six-foot point guard.

Playing and practicing with the players they idolized growing up has been a theme for almost all of the 23 for 2023 cadets. The same could be said about the wide-eyed Nieto, as he could not believe he was side-by-side with the present and the future of the game in Jayson Castro and Jiovani Jalalon.

“Nakita ko pa lang si idol Jiovani Jalalon, nakikita ko parang… di ako makapaniwala na sa isang practice magkasama kami.

“Sila Kiefer [Ravena], lalo na si Jalalon talaga at si Jayson Castro kasi talagang idol ko talaga sila eh. Napapasma nga ako nung una eh kasi parang baka akalain nila ‘sino ba to?’,” the one-time UAAP champion shared.

Nervous, Nieto tried to talk to Castro and Jalalon numerous times during the practice. The two did not turn, welcoming the young buck with open arms.

“Nung nakausap ko na sila medyo na ano na kasi hindi lang sila magaling, sobrang bait pa nila. Madali akong naka-adjust kaagad dito,” he beamed.

Coach Chot Reyes has high expectations with Nieto, as he is being groomed as one of the leaders for the 2023 team. Still, he knows that there is still a long way to go for him.

To become a better leader, the second-generation Blue Eagle knows who to reach out to.

“Gusto ko matuto kay Jayson pati kay Jiovani kasi same position kami. And of course yung leadership ni Kiefer, yung mentality na talagang laban kung laban.

“Gusto ko marami matutunan sa kanila kasi wala pa eh, wala pa ako sa peak ko. Sila andun na. So marami talaga akong matututunan sa kanila kasi sobrang galing nila at sobrang dami na nilang na-achieve sa kanilang basketball career,” Nieto gushed.

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Basketball

SJ Belangel makes leap to top 3 of Chooks-to-Go/NBTC 24

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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Ateneo Blue Eaglets towering teen Kai Sotto and La Salle Greenhills Junior Blazers court general Joel Cagulangan remained the top two high school players in the Chooks-to-Go/National Basketball Training Center 24, but there was a lot of movement this week, including the rise of SJ Belangel.

Belangel, Ateneo’s graduating floor leader, had a sensational week, helping steer the Blue Eaglets to an unblemished 10-0 record. With his exploits, he was the consensus third-ranked player of the week, leapfrogging Mapua High School’s and NCAA MVP Will Gozum.

FEU-Diliman do-it-all guard L-Jay Gonzales and Katipunan swingman Dave Ildefonso also moved up the ladder, while UST Tiger Cub ace CJ Cansino dropped to eighth after finishing fourth last week.

Besides movement at the top, there were also a lot of debutatants in this week’s list.

Blue Eaglets double-double machine Joaqui Manuel’s workhorse type of game paid off, as he was ranked 21st this week.

After firing 51 markers last weekend, Bacolod Tay Tung High School’s Harold Alarcon was named as the 22nd top prospect.

Joshua Yerro of University of Visayas then rounded out the list.

Here is the complete Chooks-to-Go/NBTC 24 Week 2:

1. Kai Sotto, center, Ateneo (1)
2. Joel Cagulangan, guard, La Salle (2)
3. SJ Belangel, guard, Ateneo (5)
4. Will Gozum, center, Mapua (3)
5. L-Jay Gonzales, guard, FEU-Diliman (6)
6. Dave Ildefonso, forward, Ateneo (8)
7. Rhayyan Amsali, forward, NU (7)
8. CJ Cansino, forward, UST (4)
9. Clint Escamis, guard, Mapua (10)
10. Aaron Fermin, center, Arellano (9)
11. Terrence Fortea, guard, NU (16)
12. RJ Abarrientos, guard, FEU-Diliman (15)
13. Inand Fornilos, forward, La Salle (11)
14. Evan Nelle, guard, San Beda (12)
15. Warren Bonifacio, center, Mapua (13)
16. John Galinato, guard, Chiang Kai Shek (14)
17. Mac Guadaña, guard, Lyceum (18)
18. Raven Cortez, center, La Salle Zobel (19)
19. Harvey Pagsanjan, guard, Hope Christian (20)
20. Maui Cruz, guard, EAC (23)
21. Joaqui Manuel, forward, Ateneo (N/A)
22. Harold Alarcon, guard, Tay Tung-Bacolod (N/A)
23. Jancork Cabahug, forward, UV (17)
24. Joshua Yerro, guard, UV (N/A)

On Tuesday, January 23, the second episode of Chooks-to-Go/NBTC 24 will air live at 7:00pm. Tonight’s special guest will be former Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas player and NBTC alumnus Jeron Teng.

The Chooks-to-Go/National Basketball Training Centre 24 is the first-ever attempt to rank the top high school prospects in the country today.

The weekly ranking used the following criteria: league stats, impact in team, team record, leadership, defense, offense, and level of competition.

These rankings will be used to determine the 24 players who will take part in the annual SM-NBTC High School All-Star Game on March at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

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MIT

Joyce Sta. Rita slams 28 as Lady Stags avert Cardinal upset

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Erasing a disappointing third set, the San Sebastian College-Recoletos Lady Stags upended the upset-conscious Mapua University Lady Cardinals, 25-20, 25-7, 29-31, 25-14, Tuesday afternoon at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

The win revived the Lady Stags’ campaign after back-to-back losses to the Jose Rizal University and University of Perpetual Help System DALTA. San Sebastian are now at 3-2.

“Andun pa rin naman, apat pa naman laro,” said Stags’ head coach Roger Gorayeb on their chances for the Final Four. “Sana umabot.”

Team captain Joyce Sta. Rita produced a career-high 28 points off 22 attacks, four blocks, and two serves. The senior middle hitter paced her squad’s 58 spikes, who outscored Mapua’s 33.

The Lady Cards capitalized on the rotation wherein Sta. Rita was in the backline in that third set turnaround. Nonetheless, Vira Guillema and the rest of the Lady Stags just turned to their experience to ultimately finish the match.

Gorayeb, nonetheless, hopes his team will toughen up mentally for the home stretch of the eliminations. “Kasi ‘yung laro, nawawala na ‘yan sa physical side, napupunta na sa psychological part ng game.”

Angelie Magundayao lead the Cardinals with 10 markers.

San Sebastian will take on the Colegio de San Juan de Letran (2-3) on Thursday. Mapua (0-5) will take on the Emilio Aguinaldo College (0-5) in a battle of the winless earlier that day.

The Scores:

SSC-R 3 – Sta. Rita 28, Dalisay 17, Santos 11, Encarnacion 10, Guillema 4, Tiangco 2, Eroa L.

MU 1 – Mangundayao 10, Racelis 9, Pena 9, Latayan 5, Morano 4, Frando 2, Mercado 1, Barias 0, Hermano 0, Ramilo L.

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