Now that the European leagues have ended their season, all focus turns to club football in the Philippines. Even if the United Football League is on hiatus, some of its teams are on the thick end of international competitions.
While the AFC Cup is the larger competition of the two as it encompasses Asia, the Singapore Cup shouldn’t be scoffed at since it provides an opportunity for clubs to win a championship in South East Asia. Two Philippine clubs have been invited to participate this year, namely 2016 UFL Cup winners Global FC and 2015 UFL champions Ceres-La Salle FC. Both will have their respective preliminary games this weekend.
Can Global finally get past the semifinals?
No other Philippine club has participated in the Singapore Cup more than Global. This is the fourth time they have joined the competition. The farthest stage they have reached was the semi-finals, particularly in the 2013 and 2015 editions. Last year they were eliminated by eventual winners Albirex Niigate Singapore FC.
Two semi-final finishes in three years isn’t the worst record, yet it isn’t the best as well. Global is a club known to be hungry for championships. They may have just won the UFL Cup, but their thirst for more glory hasn’t been satisfied as they currently sit on top of the 2016 UFL table with four consecutive wins.
Cambodian club Nagaworld FC stands in the way of Global in the preliminary round. Nagaworld finished as runners-up in the 2015 Metfone Cambodian League while they are now at 3rd place after eight games played this season. They also lost in the 2015 Hun Sen Cup finals against Scay Rieng FC. Their record in international play, though, doesn’t make for good reading as they were eliminated in the 2008 and 2010 editions of the now defunct AFC President’s Cup.
On paper, another difficult test awaits for Global. If their recent tune-up game against the Chinese Taipei National Team is the barometer, then it is safe to say that they have their work cut out for them if they want to go through the next round. Nevertheless, one thing which could prove handy for them is their championship experience as Nagaworld haven’t won a trophy in three years.
How will Ceres-La Salle fare in their Singapore Cup debut?
Ceres has been one of the top local clubs these past few years which is why there’s an air of incredulity that it’s only now they’ll participate in the Singapore Cup. The reigning UFL champions will face the Singapore Garuda Young Lions – an under-23 developmental club formed by the Football Association of Singapore.
The Young Lions have never participated in any international competition in their history. They currently sit bottom of the 2016 S. League after thirteen games as they have only won two of those. Another thing to note is that this game marks their return in the said tournament after not participating in the 2014 and 2015 editions. The last time they competed, which was in 2013, abrupt elimination in the preliminary round was the result.
One could argue that this game was the best possible draw for Ceres, but there are caveats. Their painful home loss to Hong Kong club South China AA was made worse by the fact that the game was settled at extra time. The result got them eliminated at the 2016 AFC Cup knockout stage and it would interesting to see whether or not they can bounce back amidst all the physical and mental exhaustion.
Details and Ramifications
The Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore will host this weekend’s fixtures. Global will play Nagaworld on Saturday, May 28, 2016 while Ceres shall do so a day later against Young Lions. Both games will kickoff at 7:30PM. There will only be a single game for this round with the quarterfinals being a two-leg affair.
Singaporean club Tampines Rovers and Bruneian outfit Brunei DPMM FC await Global and Ceres respectively if the latter duo can advance to the last eight. The winners of the Singapore Cup secure a slot to the 2017 AFC Cup, although it is unsure if foreign teams cam do so since the former is Singapore’s domestic cup competition.
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