THE Philippine Azkals finished at the top of Southeast Asia despite a mix of triumph and disappointments in its 2016 campaign, while lot of Cebuano footballers made their mark internationally by making it to the Philippines’ different national teams.
The Azkals started out the year at 130th in the FIFA World Rankings but by the end of the year the Azkals ended up at 120 and at the top of Southeast Asia.
The Azkals went up as high as 115th after its win over North Korea in March and dropped as low as 135th in July after months of inactivity.
The Azkals started the year with a 1-0 loss to Uzbekistan in the FIFA World Cup 2018 Asia Qualifiers but scored a 3-2 win over North Korea a few days after.
The Philippines lost 2-0 in a friendly with A League club Perth Glory in July and won two of its four friendlies in September to November. The Azkals beat Kyrgyzstan, 2-1 and 1-0, and lost to Bahrain and North Korea to identical 1-3 scorelines.
A team to beat in the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup 2016 that it hosted last November, the Azkals, who missed some key players, didn’t live up to its fans expectations and dropped out in the group stage.
The Azkals opened up the Suzuki Cup with a scoreless draw with Singapore and then followed it up with another draw, 2-2, with Indonesia. In dire need of a win, the Azkals conceded a late goal by defending champion Thailand and dropped out of the tournament.
Valentino Calvo got called up by Azkals and suited up in a friendly against Perth Glory in July.
Lorenzo Genco, Nicko Villacin and Raphael de Guzman made it to the Under-22 that will be competing in the Southeast Asian Games in 2017.
Major Dean Ebarle, Julian Miranda, Jordan Jarvis and Kintaro Miyagi were all part of the Under-19 squad that saw action in the AFF Vietcom Bank Under-19 Championship in Vietnam.
Leo Maquiling, Pietre Dakay, Ivan Ouano, Jessie Reil Semblante, Ronald Bitor and Joaquin Suarez all made the Under-16 squad that competed in the AFF Smart Under-16 Championship in Cambodia.
Joaquin Buyco and Trevor Lood was in the Under-14 team that played in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-14 Regional Festival of Football in Brunei Darussalam.
Riza Mae Ugbaniel made it to the Girls Under-14 team that competed in the AFC Girls Under-14 Regional Championship but was unable to fly with the team after having problems with her passport.