Azkals vs. Singapore, October 7, 2011

Below are my notes for the Azkals-Singapore International Friendly game as aired on Studio 23 on Friday, October 7, 2011, starting at 6:30 pm.

‘Pre-Game’
My expectations of this game is definitely a win. Again, anything less, is a disappointment. One of the goals for having this friendly series, was to climb up the FIFA rankings again by beating teams ranked higher than us. This we failed to do in the 2011 Long Teng Cup, and we are now hoping to do it with these next two games.

Looking at my records, we have NOT won a single game this year against a team ranked higher than us. We either drew, or lost to them. All of our four wins this year were against lower ranking teams.

Only Chris Soler and Rudy Del Rosario on the panel, no Ronnie Nathanielsz at last. I think its better, but only two people talking about Football for about an hour is not enough, I think they need to put in one more expert. A real expert, not Ronnie Nathanielsz.

Azkals’ Starting Eleven: (Goalkeeper) Neil Etheridge; (Backline) Aly Borromeo, Dennis Cagara, Jerry Lucena, Ray Jonsson; (Midfield) Paul Mulders, Jason De Jong, James Younghusband, Chieffy Caligdong; (Forwards) Phil Younghusband, Angel Guirado.

There were some confusion about Schrock’s status as some news reports were saying he will play, but others said no. The starting eleven seems to confirm that he will NOT be playing in this game. He reportedly is injured, which is just too bad, we could’ve used him on this tough match against a tough team.

Filipino side of the stadium seems to be almost full. And quite noisy, too. On the other hand, not too many Singaporeans seems to have gone out to watch the games.

‘First Half’
The Azkals are playing in black.

Early breakaway run by Guirado on the right side that goes straight to the Goalkeeper.

Singapore dominating possession in the first eight minutes of the game. They seem to have the better passing game, much better than the Azkals. Our offense is all over the pitch, a bit scattered. Passes not so good.

Azkals playing with a lot of individual hustle, though. Lots of intensity. Can they keep it up the whole game?

Azkals defense so far holding up beautifully against the Lion’s attack in the first thirteen minutes of the game. However, if the Lion’s keep dominating possession and attack, that defense could break down individually.

Near breakaway by the Lions that Neil thankfully caught off in the 17th minute.

Midfield battle now fifty-fifty. We’re holding our own against them very well now.

Paul Mulders down in the 22nd minute off a hard foul by a Lions Defender.

Ian Araneta goes into the pitch in the 27th minute for the seemingly injured Angel Guirado.

Azkals had at least three good runs for the goal up to the 28th minute. It seems we are starting to get our groove on offense.

Shot from outside the box by the Lions in the 33rd minute goes just a little wide on the right post. Good attempt by the Lions.

Cross by the Lions on the left side headed by Duric in the 36th minute just goes over the crossbar. Another good attempt by the Lions.

Chieffy’s shot from the left side goes just inches off the right post in the 38th minute. ‘Sayang’. Good attempt by the Azkals.

Free kick by PYH in the 40th just hit the intersection of the cross bar and left post. And yet another good shot by the Azkals.

‘First Half Summary’
I’m proud of the Azkals in the first half. We are standing shoulder to shoulder with this very tough Singapore Lions. However, it is still not over for the Azkals. The game pace is intense, it will be a battle of attrition for both sides.

Whoever tires first, or whoever starts surrendering mentally and taking it easy, even for awhile, will likely pay for it. At this rate, whoever scores first (if it comes to that), will win the game. I expect a one goal victory by either side, and I hope it will be ours.

I think it will be critical for Weiss to use all of his substitutions in this game. No matter how fit a team is, if the game is this intense, players will tire out. If our side tires out enough, that could mean the difference between a win, or a loss.

Chieffy playing quite high, he has been in the Lion’s box a lot of times during our runs.

‘Second Half’
The Azkals had three good attempts one after the other on the Lion’s box in the first four minutes of the second half.

The Lions scores the opening goal in the 51st minute from a shot outside of the box from the right side. The pressure is now on the Azkals to equalize, and at this rate this game is going, that is not going to be easy.

Shot by PYH from the right side. The second effort goes to Chieffy, who again took a shot that was caught by the keeper on the 53rd minute.

Shot by Cagara from the left side in the 57th minute from a pass by PYH from the right side goes wide.

Another good cross by PYH to the box was caught by the Lions Goalkeeper in the 60th minute.

Good header by Singapore in the 62nd minute was caught by Neil. The Lions almost doubles their lead.

Ian goes down for an injury, had to be substituted by Nate Burkey in the 65th minute.

The Singapore Lions doubles their lead in the 65th minute off a good breakaway run. The question now is, can we at least get in a goal in this game?

The Azkals fans have quieted down much after that second Lions goal.

For the rest of the game, the Azkals showed a lot of fighting heart. They have not given up, they continue their attacks on the Lions. Again, a lot of good attempts, but so far that’s what they only are: Attempts. No goals, just lots of misses, and missed opportunities.

‘Game Summary’
Another game against a higher-ranked team, and another unfavorable result for the Azkals. In fact, this time we lost. We were doing so well in the first half, I really thought we could somehow pull it off. However, the Lions showed us what differentiates them, from us: The FINAL BALL.

It is not so useful for a team to take so many shots, and just not make a goal. The game is, after all, scoring goals, and not making good attempts at the net. If it were so, perhaps we would’ve won. But it’s not.

It’s hard to fault the players, they all were obviously trying very hard. They never gave up, they kept attacking up to the end of the game, they kept playing their hearts out. However, it simply was not enough. To paraphrase a particular saying, “the mind is willing, but the flesh cannot make that god-damn final ball”.

I, for one, do not know how anyone can teach the Azkals how to get that final goal. But I think its time for the team to get new perspectives, new insights to the game. I don’t know if Weiss himself has any more good ideas left on how to improve this Azkals team. If we continue with the status quo, the team’s competence will only plateau, it will not likely move forward or higher in rankings, and might even slide.

I sense that if the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) and Germany wants to save Philippine Football, they have to move soon, and in the right direction. Otherwise, the momentum of Football in the country might slowdown considerably, and eventually stop. The ball is in their hands, this is a critical time for Philippine Football.

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