Preview: AFC Challenge Cup 2014 – Final – Palestine – Philippines
2014 AFC Challenge Cup is at its last stage: Philippines and Palestine will play in the Final, and the winner will qualify for 2015 Asian Cup.
It’s quite difficult to find a favorite team: it’s true that in Philippines there are few footballers that play in quite good European Championships, but it’s also true that it’s quite difficult to evaluate Palestine, whose elements play mostly in the local Championship, that maybe is a little bit stronger than the Filipino one. Anyway we had correcty included both these NT among the favorites.
Palestine, as expected, won Group A, without any problem, defeating Myanmar and Kirghizistan, and than drawing with Maldives in the last match, when the qualification had already been obtained: then in Semi-finals they defeated’Afghanistan 2-0, scoring the first goal on penalty kick (you can decided if that was a correct call or not in the video below).
The Semi-final vs Afghanistan.
Palestinian National Team, after a short existance during ’30, when it was formed only by Jewish players, was born again, despite the controversial status of the land that it represents, in 1998, but has often had to face bureaucratic issues because of the troubled situation in Middle East.
The most experienced players should be the goalkeeper Ramzi Saleh (33, Masr El Makasa, Egyptian Premier League ), the midfielder Imad Zatara (29, Advitabergs FF), who is a regular starter in Swedish top tier, and the defender Omar Jarun (30, Ottawa Fury FC), who has played in USA, Belgium and Poland. Few quite important elements won’t be in the Maldives, such as the midfielder Alì Khatib (25, Hapoel Acre FC, Israelian top tier), Alexis Norambuena (30, GKS Belchatow, Polish top tier) and Daniel Mustafà (29, CD San Marcos, Chilean top tier), the last two of them were born in Chile, where there’s an important Palestinian settlement, that has given so far few players to this NT.
Philippines had an harder life in Group B, that was surely more difficult: after drawing 0-0 with Afghanistan the first match, that they dominated on ball possession, but had few clear chances to score, they defeated 2-0 the quite weak Laos, and finally defeated Turkmenistan in the decisive match, in which GK Muller saved a penalty kick when the match was still 0-0. In the Semi-final Philippines defeated 2-3 (after extra times) the hosts, Maldives.
The Semi-finale vs Maldives.
This National Team is very interesting and can field few of the best footballers in this Competition, that play in quite good European Championships. If you read the players’ names in the squad, you could be surprised by the fact that they sound like Spanish, Dutch, English and German: that’s because the Country was a colony in the past and because and because several players were born and raised abroad but have Filipino mothers or grandmothers. The star, probably the best player in this Competition, is Stephan Schröck (27, Eintracht Frankfurt, but he will move to Hoffenheim next season), a striker that plays in German Bundesliga. Philippines can field two relatively good goalkeepers: Roland Müller (26, regular starter for Servette FC, Swiss second tier) and Neil Etheridge (24, third choice at Fulham FC), while in the defence we can find the expert Juan Luis Guirado (34, Burgos, Spanish third tier) and Dennis Cagara (29, regular starter for Lyngby, Danish second tier, but next season he’ll move to Karlsruher SC, German second tier). In the midfield we can find Paul Mulders (33, SC Cambuur, Dutch second tier), Jerry Lucena (33, Esbjerg IF, Danish first tier), Martin Steuble (FC Wil 1900, Swiss second tier) and Mark Hartmann (22, Global FC, he has scored 22 goals and 10 assists in 19 matches in Filipino first tier), while on the front we’d like to see Phil Younghusband (26, Loyola Meralco Sparks, Filipino first tier), who has a very high goal scoring average both in NT and in the local Championship. The main issue for Philippines could be the fact that local Championship looks weaker than the one of other Countries that play this Tournament; moreover the footballers who plays in Europe live very far away away from Philippines, and come back to the far East just to play the most important matches and not the friendlies, that often aren’t included in the International Calendar (the Clubs aren’t obliged to leave their players in this circumstance), and that could make difficult to create a strong team spirit in the “Azkals”, the nickname of this NT