Phil and James YH recall highs and lows of Challenge Cup at Gatorade launch

The Passionate Fan

Days after a heartbreaking final match-loss to Palestine, the Younghusband brothers were able to reflect on their AFC Challenge Cup campaign.

On Monday the brothers were at the Gatorade-Chelsea Blue Pitch for Gatorade's launch of Green Fury, a limited-edition flavor that features Argetinian star Lionel Messi on the bottle and appears to be timed for the upcoming FIFA World Cup.

Phil rued his miss in the first half of the final, when he was gifted with possession, time and space in the box but blasted over the crossbar.

“I was shocked at how fast the goalkeeper came at me” said the all-time leading striker of the Philippines, with 36 goals, two in this campaign. Phil said the onrushing keeper forced him to act quickly.

“It was difficult for me to take the pace off the ball. When you're in the moment, you just want to hit it” he said.

Palestine eventually scored off a free kick in the second half, the only goal of the game. They, and not the Azkals, will play in the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia.

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Phil said he came into the final weary from the extra-time semifinal against Maldives two nights earlier, which the Philippines won 3-2. But he added “I don't want to make it an excuse for the misses.”

He was also in awe of the sheer intensity and entertainment value of the semifinal against the home side, a match that will live long in the memory of Azkals fans.

“It was an end-to-end match, and there was always something going on.” Phil was also appreciative of the football-specific stadium, which created a difficult atmosphere for the visitors. He said the Maldivian team really got a boost going forward from the crowd.

James Younghusband was unused for much of the tournament but said he was delighted with the team's finish. James noted that although the Maldives was a lovely place for a holiday, there were difficulties with the island archipelago as a footballing competition venue.

According to James, not only were ferry rides to and from matches and training an almost daily occurrence, even within the sprawling resort, getting to a meal or a team meeting involved a ten-minute walk from the sleeping quarters to the dining areas and meeting areas.

“Sometimes there was a buggy to take you, but sometimes there wasn't. It was hard to conserve energy.” added Phil.

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James was sure about one thing: Azkals keeper Roland Müller was, for him, the best player on the team during the tournament. Müller saved penalties against Turkmenistan and Maldives and also neutralized numerous other attempts.

The Azkals played four matches in eight days, then got two days rest before the final. Hours after losing to Palestine both James and Phil took a two am flight to Singapore to play with their club team, Loyola Meralco Sparks, in the Singapore Cup on Saturday night. Their opponents, Laotian side SHB Champasak, were no match for the Filipino team as the Sparks ran out 7-1 winners. James started and scored a hat trick, while Phil, fighting back exhaustion, came on as a late sub and scored as well.

“In that game it was more of my mind telling my legs to run” he admitted.

* * *

On Monday Gatorade launched Green Fury with a novel concept: a mini-training camp for the country's sports media.

The Younghusbands, joined by Azkals Chieffy Caligdong and Nate Burkey, led us media folk on a circuit training regimen of seven different stations that covered basic football skills. We then played in a short scrimmage.

I played goalie on Team Phil that included Phil, Chieffy and Green Archers United Globe's Tating Pasilan. Right off the kickoff Burkey, on the opposing team, lofted a nasty shot right from 40 yards out into my left top corner that I was able to parry to safety.

Things went downhill from there as Team James scored on the ensuing corner thanks to iffy defending from my right back, who I will not identify, but whose name rhymes with “Shmryan Shmrenix.”

Burkey then did beat me later and we lost the ten-minute match 2-1. Also participating was UFL player Alfred Osei from Kaya, GMA's Mark Zambrano, Gatorade Brand Ambassador and triathlete Nikko Huelgas, and TV5 hosts Joanne Ignacio and Natasha Alquiros, who is also a member of the women's national team.

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After the match we quenched our thirst with Green Fury, which has a pleasingly refreshing kiwi-fruit taste that footballers will likely enjoy very much.

“Green Fury is our way of showing Gatorade's support for football” said Michael Rosales, Pepsico's marketing manager.

Apart from Messi, top footballers like Sergio Aguero, Sergio Ramos, and David Luiz are also part of Gatorade's pool of footballing brand ambassadors. In the Philippines Gatorade also powers UFL sides like Loyola, Green Archers, and Kaya.

The new variant, which will be available for a limited time only, bears the tagline “unreal performance demands real hydration.”

Chelsea Soccer School Philippines supplied the coaching and Adidas supported the event by furnishing out the media with football shoes. They also displayed their official World Cup balls, from the Telstar from the 1970 event to this year's Brazuca.

The evening also featured a freestyle football show from Tondo Futkaleros.

Follow Bob on Twitter @PassionateFanPH.