AFC Cup preview: Who will be Global's game changer?

 

Global FC were unable to sneak into the AFC Champions League through its qualifying stage, falling to a heavy defeat at Brisbane against A-League side Brisbane Roar.

But the good news is that the Pinoy champs will instead join Ceres as the other Filipino club in the second-level AFC Cup. This is the third consecutive year that the Philippines is represented in this competition for clubs from Asia's up-and-coming member associations. Global pioneered Filipino representation in the tournament in 2015, narrowly missing out on the group stage. 

Global are in Group F with 2015 champs Johor Darul Ta'zim of Malaysia, Magwe of Myanmar, and Boeung Ket Angkor of Cambodia. Ceres is drawn in Group G with Hanoi FC of Vietnam, Felda United of Malaysia, and Tampines Rovers of Singapore.

The format in the group stage is double-round-robin, home and away, with the top two teams reaching the knockout stage. 

There will be plenty of pressure on Global to perform. The side beat Tampines Rovers in the first Champions League qualifier before being walloped by the Roar 6-0. Global fans then took solace in the fact that Brisbane went on to defeat Shanghai Shenhua 2-0 in the final qualifier in Shanghai to progress to the group stage of the AFC Champions League. Shanghai Shehnua features the brilliant Argentine Carlos Tevez in attack.

Global will need some or all of their starters to be on their A-Game. We al know that Misagh Bahadoran will be their marquee player. Here are the other vital cogs of coach Toshiaki Imai who are looking to make a splash. 

Matthew Hartmann. Matty has gone from precocious senior team debutante at the age of 15, to persona non grata for his walkout in the 2011 SEA Games, to elder statesman of Global. 

His maturation and development on and off the pitch has been heartening and just in time for Global's Asian aspirations. The 27-year old will likely play left back on Tuesday night since regular LB Serge Kaole is out injured.

“I used to play left back in England, although there it's different. In England it's all about the number of crosses you put in. Here it's a challenge to go up and down the field in the humidity and with the fast tempo of the game,” Hartmann explains. 

The Southampton native, who was once referred to as “the best left-footed player in the Philippines, bar none,” by ex-Nomads coach Mick Dennison, is also relishing the possession-based approach of Imai. Expect to see Global try to play out of the back and through the midfield instead of sitting back and counterattacking or hoofing the ball long.

Hartmann also has the added motivation of being a father to fifteen-month old Olivia, his first child. The names of Olivia and Danielle, his longtime partner and Olivia's mum, are tattooed on his right arm. 

“I do everything for her,” he says of his daughter. “All the work for my next (player) contract will be for her.” 

“Having a kid has definitely made me wiser,” adds Hartmann. 

Matt will also be inspired by the goalscoring exploits of brother Mark, who is making hay for Sarawak in Malaysia. Check out this stupendous goal in a recent match. 

Paul Mulders. The 36-year old Filipino-Dutchman is on his second spell with Global after two years with Ceres. 

In the game against Tampines, Mulders was deployed in central defense and looked uncomfortable all night, eventually being subbed. On Tuesday he will play in a more advanced position in the center of the park. 

“We don't need him to run, we just need his technique,” says Hartmann.

The onslaught of time has not forced Mulders to evolve his game. He says he still plays the same way as he ever did. 

“I want to keep possession and dictate the tempo,” says the Eredivisie veteran. 

“At 36 years old my body still feels fit,” he adds.

It helps that Mulders is not a fan of junk food in general, and that he claims the hot weather in the Philippines allows him to lose weight very quickly. 

The dribbling magician still has quite a few tricks up his sleeve and we could see some on Tuesday. 

Amani Aguinaldo and Dennis Villanueva. When asked which of the players impressed him, Imai mentioned these two. Aguinaldo is a centerback and Villanueva, a Fil-Italian, is a holding midfielder.

Global FC players Dennis Villanueva, Matt Hartmann, and Misagh Bahadoran walk the practice pitch. Photo by Bob Guerrero/Rappler

Global FC players Dennis Villanueva, Matt Hartmann, and Misagh Bahadoran walk the practice pitch.

Photo by Bob Guerrero/Rappler

“The both have very good physiques and can play at a higher level. They just need good training and competitions,” gushed the former Mongolia and Chinese Taipei head coach. 

While Aguinaldo is already a known entity, Villanueva still flies under the radar and could really make his mark in this competition. 

Kemy Agustien. The midfielder is a new pick up for Global and hails from Curaçao, a tiny island off Venezuela that is a former Dutch colony. Agustien, 33, was a former Netherlands youth national team player who is capped by Curaçao at the senior level. 

Agustien has played in the English Premier League for Swansea and in the Dutch top tier for AZ Alkmaar. The central midfielder is a good choice to fill up one of the three non-Asian import slots. His vast experience and good size will be assets. In training on Saturday he showed his tremendous passing touch and vision in the scrimmage. 

Of course there are other fine players on the roster, like keeper Pat Deyto, wingers Hikaru Minegishi and Shu Sasaki. Darryl Roberts, a new Trinidadian striker, is also very promising. Anyone of these players could very well make an impact. 

Global is brimming with quality but there are concerns. Magwe has been very difficult to scout online, and precious little is known about them. Paolo Bugas, another influential midfielder, missed his Saturday match for FEU in the UAAP due to injury, so he is probably day-to-day. 

As of this writing, there is no word on any TV broadcast or livestream of the match, so fans really should come out to the game. Ceres is luckier: their away game will be aired live on Fox Sports 2, and it kicks off at the same time. 

Global's motto is “Play to Inspire.” If one of these players comes up large on Tuesday, they will be doing just that. – Rappler.com

Follow Bob on Twitter @PassionateFanPH.

Editor's note: An earlier version of the report said that Johor Darul Ta'zim were the defending champions. This story have since been updated to say they are the 2015 champions.