DUMAGUETE CITY, Philippines - The four titans remain.
Approaching the conclusion of this year's Palarong Pambansa football competition, four teams stood tall: National Capital Region, Central Visayas, MIMAROPA and Cotabato Region. All are hungry for the title.
Rappler takes a look at the semifinal match-ups of the 4 teams.
National Capital Region (NCR) vs Central Visayas (Region 7)
It's like 2012 all over again.
These two teams last met in the 2012 Palarong Pambansa football finals in Lingayen, Pangasinan where the booters from the Big City edged Central Visayas to take home the crown.
This year's semifinal match up between the two teams will prove to be as exciting as the last edition's finals.
NCR entered the quarterfinals with a blow in their record. After tallying two narrow wins against Central Luzon and Caraga, the Big City booters were marred by a loss against Bracket A's top team, Eastern Visayas. The defending champions lost in a 2-1 scoreline, getting the consolation goal at the dying minutes of the game.
En route to the semifinals, NCR defeated powerhouse Western Visayas in a dramatic fashion. Ace booter Kimron Arienda salvaged an injury time goal (81st minute) to breathe life in their campaign to defend the title.
Represented by Don Bosco, Makati, this is a different line up compared to the NCR contingent that won the championship last year with FEU-FERN booters.
Central Visayas, represented by Cebu booters, finished top of Bracket B with two wins and one draw. The wins came at the expense of CAR and ARMM who defaulted in the second half of their match. The draw came in an exciting game against Davao Region.
En route to the semifinals, Central Visayas handily defeated Northern Mindanao, in what seemed to be a football clinic rather than a competitive football match.
The 5 goal were split between 5 players, showing the kind of prowess this teams has, more than the individual quality which they have in abundance.
MIMAROPA (Region 4B) vs Cotabato Region
Battle of the darkhorses.
If there's anything very exciting about this match-up, it's that the champion can easily come from the winner of this game.
MIMAROPA is a consistent placer in the top 5 of the tournament the past 2 years, with their highest finish in the competition at 3rd place in the 2012 edition.
The Region 4B booters, mostly from Romblon with a number of players from Puerto Princesa, cruised to the knockout stages, registering 3 straight wins to top Bracket C.
They defeated Northern Mindanao, 3-1, dominated Zamboanga Peninsula, 5-0, and annihilated Ilocos Region 9-0. En route to the semifinals, MIMAROPA routed favorites Davao Region, 4-0, to continue their campaign for the gold.
Cotabato Region's last top 5 finish in the Palarong Pambansa happened in 2010 where they finished 5th place. This year, they are looking to cap their campaign with the region's first gold in recent years.
The SOCCSKSARGEN booters cruised to the knockout stages with just one stain in their record, a loss against Western Visayas. They dominated CALABARZON, 5-0, demolished Bicol Region, 4-1, annihilated Cagayan Valley, 10-2, before falling out in a tight contest against Western Visayas, 2-3.
Cotabato Region will make an interesting case as they defeated Eastern Visayas in the quarterfinals. Eastern Visayas pulled the upset in the eliminations against defending champion NCR, 2-1.
Tune in to updates of these semifinal games. - Rappler.com