(Tokyo, Japan; September 27, 1967)
The Philippine national football team is the national football team of the Philippines and represents the country in international football. The team is controlled by the Philippine Football Federation (PFF), the governing body of football in the Philippines.
In September 2006, the country fell to 195th on the FIFA World Rankings, its lowest ever. By the end of the year, the Philippines moved back up to 171st overall, after a good run in the 2007 ASEAN Football Championship qualification. They were able to win three games in a row which was a first for the Philippines and thus qualifying for the 2007 ASEAN Football Championship. Coach at that time Aris Caslib, aimed to reach the semifinals with two wins at the group stage. The decision came despite Philippine Football Federation president Juan Miguel Romualdez stating that they would still be underdogs in the tournament and that they mustn't raise their expectations too high, as the Philippines have only won their first ever win of the tournament during the 2004 edition.
The Philippines eventually failed to reach their target, only getting a draw in three matches. Their poor performances led to Caslib's resignation, as well as the refusal of the PFF to register and enter the qualification stages for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. They would be one of four nations, all from Southeast Asia not to enter after a record number of entries. However it was revealed that the decision not to enter the 2010 as well as the 2006 World Cup qualification was made during the PFF presidency of Rene Adad, whose term ended in 2003. Instead, the PFF wanted to focus on domestic and regional competitions.
In 2010, they qualified for the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup, where they stayed undefeated in the group stage against powerhouses nations and also went on to beat defending champions Vietnam, becoming one of the biggest upsets in the history of the tournament. Their win against Vietnam, also referred by local Filipino fans as the "Miracle of Hanoi", was considered as the match that changed the inception of Football in a basketball-craze nation. The team reached the knockout stage for the first time but played all their games in Jakarta due to the unavailability of a stadium that passes AFF standards, eventually losing to Indonesia in the semifinals. The Philippines was the first and, as of now, only team that made to the AFF Semi-Finals that went through the qualification. In 2011, the Philippines qualified for the AFC Challenge Cup for the first time since qualifiers were introduced in the tournament.
On July 3, 2011, the Philippines recorded their first ever victory in FIFA World Cup qualification, beating Sri Lanka 4–0 in the second leg of the first preliminary round. They advanced 5–1 on aggregate, drawing 1–1 in the first leg before winning at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. The Philippines advanced to the second round against Kuwait, where the Filipinos were beaten 5–1 on aggregate, losing both matches.
On March 11, 2012, the Philippines recorded its first win in the AFC Challenge Cup by defeating previous champions India 2–0 and followed by another victory in March 13, which they won 2–1 against Tajikistan, thus qualifying for the semifinals for the first time. However, on March 16, 2012, the team suffered a 2–1 defeat against Turkmenistan in their semifinals match. The Philippines made up for their semifinals loss to Turkmenistan by beating Palestine 4–3 to win third place.
On November 30, 2012, the team made it to the semifinals of the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup. The Rizal Memorial Stadium hosted its first Suzuki Cup match, a 0–0 draw against Singapore; Singapore won the semifinals by winning the return leg in Singapore, 1–0.
In the 2014 AFF Championship, the Philippines defeated Indonesia for the first time since the 1934 Far Eastern Games. This win and an earlier win against Laos propelled the Philippines to a third consecutive semifinal appearance despite losing to group stage host Vietnam on their third match. The Philippines faced Thailand in the two-legged semifinal, coming up with a goalless draw against their opponents at home in Manila but losing the away match at Bangkok.
In March 2008, the PFF signed a three-year, ₱9-million contract with Mizuno to become the official outfitter and equipment supplier of the national team, as well as becoming a major partner in its grassroots development programs. The previous outfitter was Adidas.
On June 4, 2012, the PFF signed a three-year agreement with Puma to become the official kit sponsor of the national team. They will be releasing the official long term home and away kits soon in association with Cougar Athletic Trends, with designs said to be comparable to that of Italy and Cameroon and other nations that use Puma as their kit designers.
The traditional home kit is similar to the France national team; blue jersey, white shorts, and red socks. However, in recent times, the home and away kit has either been all-blue, all-red or all-white. Currently the home kit is all-blue, while the away kit is all-white.
Under the official FIFA Trigramme the team's name is abbreviated as PHI; this acronym is used by FIFA, the AFC and the AFF to identify the team in official competitions. The team is also identified under the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) country code for the Philippines as PHL. However the team was more commonly known as the RP, the acronym for the country's official name, Republika ng Pilipinas, which the local press used when they referred to the team as the "RP Booters" or the "RP XI". This was until late October 2010 when the Department of Foreign Affairs decided to change the official abbreviation of the country from "RP" to "PH" or "PHL", to be in line with ISO standards. The local press have since referred to the team as either "PH/PHL Booters" or "PH/PHL XI".
The national team is referred to as the "Azkals". The name was coined when an online Philippine football community proposed the nickname Calle Azul (Spanish for Streets of Blue, referring to the color of their kit) which was modified to Azul Calle, shortened to AzCal, and finally became Azkal – a word that is similar to Filipino term Askal meaning street dog. “Azkals” became a trending topic on Twitter during the semifinals of the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup.
They are also known as the "Tri–Stars" which is derived from the three stars on the Philippine flag, although this nickname is not frequently used.
During the early years of the Philippine national team, they played their home matches at the Manila Carnival Grounds. By 1934 it became the site of the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex. One of the facilities within the complex is the 30,000 capacity national stadium, known as the Rizal Memorial Track and Football Stadium or simply the Rizal Memorial Stadium. Since its opening, it has been the home venue of the Philippine national team.
However, it has also become a hub for track and field. The continued use for athletics along with poor maintenance has deteriorated the stadium and the 1991 Southeast Asian Games was the last time it was used for international football matches. In early 2009, the Philippine Sports Commission planned to transform it to a modern football stadium which would make it usable by the national team for international matches.
Since 1992, the Olympic team has been drawn from a squad with a maximum of three players over 23 years of age, and the achievements of this team are not generally regarded as part of the national team's records, nor are the statistics credited to the players' international records.
After the inception of the AFC Challenge Cup, new changes in AFC Competition rules were made. Countries categorized as "emerging nations" which include the Philippines, do not enter Asian Cup qualification starting with the 2011 edition. Therefore, failure to qualify and failure to win the Challenge Cup automatically results in failure to qualify for the Asian Cup.