2015 in Football: A year-end report

THE year 2015 was not just a busy year-long activity for Philippine football, but also a dramatic one of which the Azkals learned and got their experiences from their crusade.

Also, there were surprises. From the UFL to the college scene, every moment of it was shown with utmost attention and was taken seriously.

With that, we are now presenting what transpired during the year.

1. The Azkals' WCQ campaign

The Philippine Azkals earned a 3-4-1 win-loss-draw card this year. However, the Azkals’ road to World Cup 2018 was definitely cut after garnering three losses against Uzbekistan, Bahrain and Yemen. Now, they need to win their last two matches against the former and North Korea in March 24 and 29 to have a good chance to enter the Asian Cup in 2019 to be held in the United Arab Emirates.

Maybe the most dramatic match for the Azkals was their fight against Bahrain. They met each other for three respective matches this year. The Azkals lost in their friendly match last March 30, 2-1. But they got a W in their home match drawing first win in their standing at the World Cup Qualifiers last June at Philippine Football Stadium, 2-1, but on their away-match in Riffa, the Bahrain was their second cause of suffering in their road to Russia after they lost in front of the Bahraini crowd last Oct. 21, 2-1.

Secondly, their unexpected result against North Korea wherein they created a draw game, 0-0 in Kim Ill-Sung stadium last Oct. 8. This is their first draw match against the Asia’s powerhouse team and the Group H leader since they first meet-up last AFC Challenge Cup last 2012 in Nepal, 2-0.

The last but not the least, their shocking cracking pressure against the weaker side Yemen, whose ranked 148th in the latest FIFA World Rankings. The Azkals impressively defeated the low-ranked national ball-club in Doha last June 11, 2-0 but they felt short in their Manila match last November 12, 1-0.

2. New Roles

Misagh Bahadoran is the one of the featured covers on this last provision. From the 2014 Suzuki Cup where he showcased his style, talent and skill, he earned the friendly quote from the experts “the guy to defeat” after finally showing off his scoring. He earned two international goals this year, which was the most-awaited stat for his fans and supporters.

Daisuke Sato, on the other hand, is a sensation in defense. Despite of his height, he was ready for everything to defend their home turf against the invading opponents. His defending skills were showcased on their last match against Uzbekistan last Sept. 8, although they lost by a large margin, 5-1. He was considered as the best defender in the squad.

And most of that, the major changing role of forward Phil Younghusband to a play-maker, which is the effective major rotation role for national mentor coach Thomas Dooley. The first evidence of the change was his assist play to convert the goal for Bahadoran against Bahrain and his attempted play-making highlights in their recent matches.

These are some of the evidences of the effective coaching system of Dooley by means of swapping roles and hiring local and foreign-based talents. Are there any other secret strategies that Dooley hide? Well then, watch it out next year.

3. The Rise of Women's Football

The second staging of the PFF Women’s Invitational Cup gave the distaff scene a chance to show that they have the game. And to top it all, they launched a campaign entitled #WePlayTogetherPH, which was trending on sites related to Philippine football.

The said tournament, won by FEU, gave us one of the best matches the year had, with Ateneo prevailing in a goalfest against UST in the third-place playoff.

And to cap it off, the Loyola Meralco Sparks became the second UFL club (the other was Green Archers United) to create its own women’s team in anticipation of the establishment of a women’s league.

4. From Promotion to Champion

Speaking of the UFL, 2015 was a big year for Ceres. A season after dominating the second division, Ceres put on a show in the first division and won the coveted UFL league crown, the first time a promotion-to-champion incident that happened in the 12-year existence of the league. Ceres, by virtue of the league title, automatically earned a slot in the AFC Cup.

5. The End of a Drought

While the bashers keep on trolling Ginebra for its PBA title drought, a similar case was happening in the UFL. Kaya last won a silverware in the 2008 (curiously, the last time Ginebra won a PBA silverware too) league season. However, Kaya's championship wait is over after surviving a penalty shootout with Ceres for the UFL Cup title. The win initially placed Kaya at the AFC Cup qualifiers, but with Indonesia losing a representative to the cup after getting a FIFA suspension, Kaya automatically earned the group stage entry.

Next year will be the despicable year for the Azkals the first served matches were the two left fixtures for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup Qualifiers against Uzbekistan in Tashkent and North Korea in Manila and the most-awaited 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup whereas for the first-time, the Philippines will host the spectacular-event in Southeast Asia together with Myanmar, on that advantage, the Philippines will try to surpass its semifinal finish last 2014 trying to achieve the tilt in December.

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