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FIFA yanks Azkals vs Kuwait friendly, then later reinstates it

October 24, 2012 9:07pm

It was the friendly that was off, then back on.

On Thursday, FIFA temporarily removed Kuwait's 2-1 victory over the Philippines, which was played last October 17. Several hours later, the international governing body for football reinstated it, after an issue over whether or not the match had been sanctioned by the Asian Football Confederation had been settled.

Early on, FIFA explained the initial removal to GMA News by noting that "Kuwait had not applied for authorisation from the AFC, as is required under the FIFA Regulations Governing International Matches. For this reason we had to remove the fixture from FIFA.com.”

However, since that decision, the fixture has now been reinstated and will count towards the rankings. It appears as if the communication between FIFA and the AFC was slow, as FIFA later told the Philippine Football Federation that "We [FIFA] were just informed now that AFC authorized this match. So it will be back as A-match. We apologize for that.”

What it means for the Philippines

As the Philippines lost the game, they will suffer in the rankings slightly despite Kuwait being ranked 35 places above the Azkals. The 0-0 draw with Bahrain and 2-1 loss to Kuwait will now put the Philippines on 184 ranking points, up from last month’s total of 178. However, had the match with Kuwait still been removed from the official records, the Azkals’ total would have risen to 193, a nine point increase, which may have well have led to the Philippines climbing another couple of places.

Last month, the Azkals’ 178 point haul was enough to reach 147 in the world, the highest-ever placing in the nation's history, and now results elsewhere will determine where the Philippines will rank next month.

As it is, the Azkals will likely remain in a very similar position, either a place above or below their current standing, depending on the results of their nearest rivals. Only Thailand and Vietnam remain higher ranked than the Philippines in South East Asia and in the ELO ratings, a rival to FIFA for rankings, the Philippines has been the most improved side in the world over the last two years running.

Middle East training camp performances

No matter what the official rankings are, however, nothing can take away from the Azkals their gritty performances against both Bahrain and Kuwait.

Facing much higher-seeded opposition, the Philippines more than held their own against Bahrain. The best chances of the match against Bahrain fell to Denis Wolf as the Azkals were the better side on Bahrain’s own ground, while a 2-1 loss compares favorably to the 3-0 loss in Kuwait last year, showing the progress the Azkals have made in that time. A couple of very questionable penalties certainly added controversy to the game.

Most impressively, the Azkals didn’t set up defensively for the draw – to park the bus and look to counterattack – as they did in the 2010 Suzuki Cup or against Australia U23s, and even against Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur earlier this year. The newer and younger players, such as Demit Omphroy, Matthew Uy, and Patrick Reichelt – all featured in upcoming episodes of FTW – have added a flair and chemistry to the team, which has enabled the Azkals to reach a new level and play to win against stronger sides. In short, this is perhaps the strongest side ever to represent the Philippines.

Looking forward to the Suzuki Cup

All this bodes well for the Suzuki Cup, of course, as fans may have started getting nervous following a goalless draw against Cambodia and a 2-1 loss to Laos, which finished second in the Suzuki Cup qualification. Both those matches were eventually stricken from FIFA records as Cambodia used seven substitutions, the maximum in an international friendly being six, while Laos used an official not recognized by FIFA.

In contrast, the successful hosting of the Philippine Football Peace Cup at the Rizal Memorial Stadium now shows that the Philippines is capable of hosting an international match, where some South East Asian rivals have failed at this year.

Now at their highest FIFA position in history, and given the team’s performances and the organization of the Peace Cup, the Philippines know they have a good chance to make the semifinals of the Suzuki Cup next month. Should they repeat 2010’s feat, there will be no doubt that the Philippines will get a home leg this time around. On and off the pitch Philippine football is possibly in its best position ever. - AMD, GMA News
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