This might be the end of the line.
To those who have been following the FIFA World Cup, they know that the Philippines’ chances of getting 1 out of the 32 slots is close to zero. Japan, Australia, South Korea, and probably Iran are the favorites to take the 4 slots from the Asian region. In Southeast Asia alone, we might not even be in the top 4.
But why do we still hope that the Azkals can make it?
In a game that they needed to win soundly vs Bahrain, the Azkals went out flat, out of sync with each other and out of tune with tempo of the game. They were running out of steam, running out of ideas, and running out of time to catch the trip to Russia.
With one thunderous dipping free kick in the 61st minute off a needless foul from Bahadoran, all hopes of a 2018 World Cup were possibly extinguished.
At that time, there were still 30 minutes to salvage a draw despite two goals down. The Azkals gambled by bringing more players forward, leaving the defense prone to counter-attacks, but the final ball seemed to lack any real purpose except for the two crosses which Phil Younghusband turned into an off-target header and a soft hurried attempt straight at the keeper.
Were the Azkals still feeling the strain after a gallant stand against North Korea away from home? Were they still suffering from the long trip to Bahrain? Or the Azkals not good enough to be a top contender in Asia?
So why do we hope?
It’s probably the same reason why people still buy lotto tickets despite knowing that the chances of winning is 1 in a (14?) million.
Why we still hope?
Because there’s a chance, no matter how little it is. We will take that little chance because it can give us happiness, even if we know that it will die down in the end and leave us heartbroken. A little chance is far better than no chance at all. And we hold on to that little chance despite reason and logic pointing the other way. It is better to go out fighting and be beaten than to surrender at the first sight of obstacle.
Should we still hope in the Azkals?
Hell yes! The 2018 World Cup dream maybe over but there are future editions of the tournament.
Can we say that Azkals project is a success?
Again, hell yes, by a million kilometers!
Before the Azkals, we Filipino football fans would squirm at the sight of our team getting hammered by large margins by our neighboring countries. Now, the national team can play possession football and even dictate the passage of the game. And the team is still improving, especially with Thomas Dooley at the helm.
Is this the best Azkals ever assembled?
To this date, yes! But it could still get better. One bright hope is the Southridge wonderkid, Sandro Reyes, who was selected to train in the football school of the European superclub FC Barcelona. Sandro is a testament that Filipinos, given proper training and guidance, can excel in the sport. We may just need more training facilities (futsal court sa bawat bayan?) to enable children to discover their footballing talents.
So on November 12, let’s still give our loudest support to our Azkals as they take on bottom of the group Yemen. The team needs a morale-boosting win before they take on Uzbekistan and North Korea in their last two matches.
Don’t miss this chance.