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Philippines in ASEAN semis
JAY R. GOTERA
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 10 - 12 - 2010

MANILA: After stunning regional football powerhouse Vietnam with a 2-0 shocker and then battling Myanmar to a scoreless draw in Nam Dinh City, Vietnam, the underdog Philippines barged into the semifinals of the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup but now faces the problem of lack of acceptable local pitch to stage the first leg of the semifinals against Indonesia.
The AFF said it could not hold the match in any of the proposed Philippine venues since none of them meets the Suzuki Cup standards.
“A set of guidelines has to be met before a stadium can stage an AFF Suzuki Cup match and none of the proposed venues in the Philippines reached the required standard stipulated in the Hosting Obligations for the tournament,” an AFF statement said.
The Philippines is supposed to host Group A leader Indonesia in the first leg of the semifinal tie on Dec. 16, before traveling to Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta for the away leg on Dec. 19.
To break the impasse, the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) agreed with an AFF proposal for the Philippines to choose to play one leg of their semifinal match against Indonesia at a neutral venue or both legs in the “country of their opposition,” meaning either Group B leader Vietnam or Group A runner-up Malaysia, the two other semifinalists.
The Malaysia-Vietnam semifinal will open in Kuala Lumpur on Dec. 15, with the second leg scheduled in Hanoi on Dec. 18.
The Philippines placed second in Group B behind defending champion Vietnam, which nailed the top spot with a 1-0 victory over Singapore also Wednesday.
Before the Filipinos' improbable 2-0 win against Vietnam, no one thought that the Philippines will advance in the tournament and stage a home game; hence, the lack of preparation for a suitable football venue.
That victory has fired up Filipino sports fans who are die-hard basketball aficionados and have little idea that they have a football team competing in a regional tournament.
Under the steady guidance of coach Simon McMenemy, the Philippine XI has turned from regional whipping boy into a title contender.
McMenemy employs stingy defense as his team's primary weapon. In the ongoing tourney, the Filipinos have given up a tournament-low one goal in three group stage matches. This was evident in the match against Myanmar Wednesday as the Filipinos had their Burmese opponents rushing shots against their formidable defense.
The Philippines nearly scored two minutes before halftime, but Phil Younghusband's header bounced off the right-side post.
While the Burmese could not find any decent shot at the goal, the Filipinos had more scoring chances in the second half but all ended up hitting iron. Ian Araneta had one shot hitting against the crossbar, while another bounced off the post.


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