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Monday, July 15, 2024

Champion FEU seeks return trip to football finals

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Defending champion Far Eastern University will look to return to the UAAP Season 86 Men’s Football Final as it takes on Ateneo de Manila University in the Final Four today (Thursday) at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

After topping the league table with 28 points, the Tamaraws will face No. 4 Blue Eagles, who finished the ons with 18 points at 4:30 p.m.

The other semifinal pits No. 2 University of the Philippines and third-ranked University of Santo Tomas at 7 p.m.

The winners will clash in the one-match Final on May 16.

“We’re confident going into the Final Four. The team’s been very strong this year. There are a few lapses in terms of mentality sometimes,” said FEU coach Albert Besa.

“In a few games, they became overconfident. The Final Four is knockout na so there’s no room to be overconfident or to have any mental lapses.”

FEU swept Ateneo in their elimination round head-to-head this season.

The Tamaraws are tipped to enter the Final for the fourth time in 10 seasons, but the Blue Eagles are not going to be pushovers.

Ateneo enters the Final Four on a high after battling fabled rival De La Salle to a 2-2 stalemate on the final day of eliminations last May 2.

Kofi Agyei, who scored and provided an assist against the Green Booters in that match, has nine goals so far in this campaign and is expected to cause problems in the final third against the Tamaraws.

“We need to prepare. It’s a tough game against the team at the top of the league. We lost both matches in the first and second round. I think ‘yun ang kailangan naming ayusin going to the semifinal,” said Ateneo coach JP Merida.

“This is a challenge. Simple mistakes nila, we need to capitalize. Playing FEU is very hard but we will try to win the game on Thursday.”

The Fighting Maroons finished the elimination round with 27 points, seven clear of the Golden Booters.

Despite winning their head-to-head in the elims, coach Popoy Clarino knows that the Fighting Maroons cannot underestimate the Golden Booters if they want to return to the big dance for the first time since their 2018 (Season 80) championship run.

“Of course, UST is a very very strong team. Again, they’ve been on a scoring rampage. Most of their starters did not play at all because of accumulated yellow cards (last April 28). We’re looking forward to a good game when we face UST again,” said Clarino.

The Golden Booters seek a return to the Final for the first time since losing to the Fighting Maroons in 2018.

Before losing to UP to close out the second round, UST went on a five-match unbeaten streak.

The Fighting Maroons will be led by Ramil Bation III and Francis Tacardon, who have nine and six goals respectively, while the Golden Booters have Chris Valderrama and Kyler Escobar, who have five goals each, and TJ Garciano, who leads the Golden Booters with seven goals.

“It’s not an easy game but I believe my players are capable of getting another win in the semifinals,” said UST coach Marjo Allado. “Their performance in the second round is superb. They can score goals in matches without relying on one or two players only.

“UP is a strong team. It stretches opponents to initiate its attack and always does that in all matches. It has good forwards too that could create havoc for every defense. However, my team is ready for Thursday’s match.”

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