A goal vs Tajiks will seal PH’s football legacy

DAVAO Aguilas main man Phil Younghusband scored his 49th goal for the Philippine Azkals in their 3-2 friendly match win over Fiji Thursday night at the Rizal Memorial stadium in Manila.

He is right now the most prolific international scorer in the history of Philippine football and if he scores another one against Tajikistan on March 27 he will seal his legacy and we will wait for another lifetime to find another prolific Filipino scorer that could break that record.

The goal against Fiji was Phil’s first this year after scoring five goals for the Azkals last year. He actually began his scoring spree in 2006 when he scored six goals in four matches for the Philippine senior team in his debut year. From then on he has pilled up goals scoring his most number of goals in a year in 2012 with 10.

After more than 12 years with the Azkals, the Filipino-Englishman seems has not lost his touch. Although slowed down by age and injuries, the 30-year-old striker/midfielder was still deadly in front of the goal against Fiji.

He cooly scored from the penalty spot in the 26th minute after Misagh Bahadoran was brought down inside the box by a Fijian defender.

The Azkals then pushed forward as Hikaru Minegishi and Kevin Ingresso scored one goal each in the 51st and 61st minutes to put them ahead 3-0.

Fiji however refused to give up as Ame Votoniu and Roy Krishna scored one goal each to cut the Azkals’s lead, 2-3. Fortunately, the Azkals held on and preserved their lead to avoid a setback to prepare well for the coming most important match in the history of Philippine football against Tajikistan on March 27.

A victory or a draw against Tajikistan will put the Azkals in the AFC Asian Cup in UAE next year where they will pit skills against the big boys of Asian football.

Phil and his elder brother James has been the face of Philippine football for a long time now since they moved from England and played for the Philippine National team in the 2005 South East Asian Games in Bacolod.

I met Phil, his brother James and their former manager Joyce Ramirez in Iloilo in 2008 during the AFC Challenge Cup qualification tournament. Phil scored only one goal in that competition against Bhutan in a rain soaked Barotac Nuevo Plaza football pitch.

The Azkals finished on top of their group with Tajikistan with seven points but failed to advance to the main tournament with lower goal difference.

On March 27, the Azkals will have the opportunity to seek revenge against the Tajiks with the AFC Asian Cup qualification awaiting them while Phil is waiting for his 50th goal.

Phil will be among the 13 elite active players who have scored 50 and more international goals in football history if he finds the back of the net on March 27.

Among those 13 players who have scored 50 plus goals are international superstars Cristiano Ronaldo (79-Portugal), Lionel Messi (61-Argentina), and Neymar (53-Brazil). Other active players in the list are David Villa (59-Spain), Clint Dempsey (57-USA), Sunil Chhetri (56-India), Alu Ashfaq (52-Maldives), Eden Dseko (52-Bosnia Herzegovina), Bader Al-Mutawa (51-Kuwait), Robin Van Persie (50-Netherlands), Tim Cahill (50-Australia), and Shinji Okazaki (50-Japan).

Iran’s legendary striker Ali Daei is the most prolific international scorer with 109 goals in a career which spanned from 1993-2006.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored the most number of international goals among active players with 79. He has even overtaken Brazilian legend Pele who recorded 77 international goals.

(l.biantan@gmail.com)