FIFA Friendlies 2023: PH defends home turf VS Afghanistan
Posted: 2023-Sep-14 15.44.58 UTC+0800
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MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines found the late magic to spell a thrilling win against Afghanistan on Tuesday night, September 12, at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Azkals casted a comeback after going down by one-nil with 26 minutes to play in regulation of the second half behind the goals scored by Sebastian Rasmussen and Christian Rontini to beat the Afghans, 2-1, and end the September FIFA international window on a high note.
This is the perfect bounce back the squad guided by Hans Michael Weiss could afford while playing in front of a raucous Filipino crowd in RMS after ending leveled against lower-ranked Chinese Taipei, 1-1, last September 8 in their first FIFA friendly match.
It was a wise decision for Weiss to keep 10 of 11 the players who started the fixture against the Taiwanese team, with Rontini replacing Amani Aguinaldo's place, as the Azkals excited the Filipinos watching in the stands behind their tremendous efforts on both ends of the pitch since the get-go.
Patrick Reichelt and Patrick Strauss' shots either went over the bar or got denied by Afghanistan goalkeeper Faisal Ahmad Hamidi in the opening 45 minutes.
On the other end, the visitors proved to be dangerous in counterattacks but the defense was prepared to stop them led by Philippine keeper Neil Etheridge.
Cold as ice, Omid Popalzay opened the floodgates in the 64th minute, thanks to their captain Farshad Noor's cross that caught the Filipino booters with their guards down.
Rising to the occasion was Fil-Danish striker Rasmussen who came as a substitute in the second half. The 21-year-old registered his fourth goal for the senior national team after a fast and powerful sprint against multiple defenders before finishing with a left-footed strike for the Philippines to equalize 10 minutes later.
After the young gun's Kylian Mbappe celebration, it was Rontini's turn to delight the already hyped Azkals' supporters.
Starting off a strategic corner kick, Bienvenido Maranon perfectly placed the ball inside the box for Rontini to bang home, which left the stunned Afghan defense fronzen for a moment.
The Italy-born defense ran toward the roaring Filipinos and performed Cristiano Ronaldo's famous "Siu".
That Rontini goal was enough to lift the Azkals past the Lions of Khorasan as the five-minute added time expired.
With the victory, Weiss improved to two wins, a draw, and a defeat in his first four games for the Philippines following the German manager's return in the Azkals coaching helm.
He coached the nationals from 2011-2014.
Up next for the Philippines is the joint 2026 FIFA World Cup and 2027 AFC Asian Cup qualifying that will begin by November 2023.
Bunched alongside the Azkals are Iraq, Vietnam, and the winner between Brunei Darussalam and Indonesia in Group F.