With the Philippine national team set to battle Singapore in their AFF Suzuki Cup opener, their skipper Phil Younghusband is also approaching another milestone as he cements himself as a Filipino football legend – 100 international caps.
The Azkals only unveiled their 23-man squad hours before their match but many knew that Younghusband’s name was going to be on the sheet as he is at the peak of his talents at 31 years old and he is arguably the team’s best player.
Ahead of him winning his 100th cap, here are five of the best moments in international football.
FIRST GOAL FOR THE COUNTRY
In 2006, Younghusband suited up for the country in the 2007 AFF Championship qualification. Younghusband did not play in the first game against Laos, with the Philippines losing 2-1.
However, he suited up in the next game against Timor-Leste and took less than 30 minutes to score his first goal for the Azkals.
This officially started the Younghusband phenomenon and helped in the rise of Philippine football.
While scoring the first goal is considered as a great accomplishment for the striker, Younghusband made his presence felt in the game as he went on to score four goals in that match against Timor-Leste.
The first goal was in the 22nd minute and three minutes later he converted on the penalty spot.
Only eleven minutes after collecting his brace, he secured his hat-trick as the Philippines were comfortably up 4-0 at the time.
However, Younghusband was still up for one more goal as the team was already up 5-0 but he found the back of the net again in the 69th to put an exclamation point to a great game that the Azkals went on to win 7-0.
THE WIN OVER VIETNAM
By the time the Philippines took part in the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup, Younghusband was already an undoubted force for the Philippines as he already had 11 international goals to his name by this time.
However, against the defending champions of the competition, Younghusband put on a show in front of a hostile crowd in Vietnam.
After Chris Greatwich’s opening goal in the first half giving the underdog Azkals the lead, Younghusband put the game beyond reach with a goal in the 79th minute. Controlling the ball with his right foot, he beat the defender before switching to the left and slotting the ball past the keeper.
It was certainly a big win and one that helped them advance to the knockout stages of the competition.
2012 AFC CHALLENGE CUP
Younghusband was head-and-shoulders above the competition during the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup. Finishing as runners-up in Group A of the qualifiers, the Philippines lost their first game in the main competition against North Korea.
However, they would bounce back in the next game against another favourite in India, with Younghusband scoring a brace in a 2-0 victory that was the country’s first-ever win over India.
In their third game of the group stages, he scored again against Tajikistan in a 2-1 victory that helped them reach the knockout stages.
They battled Turkmenistan in the semis and eventually lost 2-1, but Younghusband still found the back of the net and eventually led the team to a third-place battle against Palestine.
The Azkals would win 4-3 with Younghusband securing a brace as he helped the team achieve their best finish in the competition and Phil eventually won the Golden Shoe with six goals in the competition – doubling the output of the second-best in the campaign.
OVER 50 GOALS AND COUNTING
As he approaches the century mark in international appearances, Younghusband has shown his exploits in scoring as he is in elite company as one of the few players who have at least 50 interntional goals for his country.
Currently at 51, he joins the ranks of players such as Cristiano Ronaldo (85), Miroslav Klose (71), and Lionel Messi (65) who have done so much scoring for their country.
Furthermore, with 99 appearances, 51 goals has Younghusband as one of the better ratios in appearances to goals.
Lastly, the bulk of his incredible goals have been in highly-important matches that have helped the Philippines reach the level they’re on at the moment. At 31 years old, he certainly has more left in the tank for the country.