February 11, 2012 at the Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, United Arab Emirates: The U23 Uzbekh White Wolves rout the Azkals, 3-0. Goal scorers were Kenja Turayev (12′) and Ivan Nagaev (42′, 55′).
Starting XI: Goalkeeper – Roland Mueller; Backline – Jason Sabio, Luis Guirado, Carli De Murgia, Jason De Jong; Midfield – Marwin Angeles, James Younghusband, Misagh Bahadoran, Angel Guirado; Forward – Phil Younghusband, Dennis Wolf
Substitutes: Ruben Doctora, Nestor Margarse, Ian Araneta, Lexton Moy
‘First Half Summary’
We were defending well inside the box most of the time, deflecting off most of those crosses. Some are able to get in, though, which end up as legitimate shots on goal, and some of those in turn eventually end up as scoring opportunities.
I saw some improvement from our Azkals in terms of moving that ball up on offense, I can see we were now doing one-touch passing in strings of 4-6 which allowed us to move forward effectively. Our biggest problem though was what to do with the ball once it reaches the last third of the pitch, on the opponent’s box. That was when our offense started to sputter. Our crosses from the flanks were very, very poor, they never really resulted in a good shot that really threatened the Uzbekhs.
This is one of the Azkals’ biggest weaknesses right now. I think if Chieffy was in the game, he would’ve fulfilled that role, but with him gone, nobody has been able to step in and take that role. Angel had a couple of good opportunities with his run in the flanks, thanks to his fantastic ballhandling, but his crosses remained very poor.
‘Second Half Summary’
We parked the bus in the second half, wherein our backline and midfield sat back deep into our side of the pitch, and it worked very well in neutralizing those crosses by the Uzbekhs. However, this came at a great cost: First, it cost us a lot our possession. It managed to increase even more the already majority possession of the Uzbekhs. Second, as a direct result of our having less possession, we had much less chances on offense than we had before, less chances to score goals, relying only on the occassional counterattacks when the opportunity showed.
I think Weiss made the right decision in this game: Attack in the first half, and if that didn’t work (which it didn’t), then park the bus in the second half, and hope for the best on offense. We didn’t really have much of a choice, as our attacks in the first half weren’t working, and we were giving up too many shots on goal and goals. If we hadn’t parked the bus in the second half, that scoreline would’ve been higher, around 5 or maybe even six.
It wouldn’t do our National Team any good, if they keep losing by large margins. Sometimes we need to admit we are just not good enough yet to win against some of these teams, and bite the bullet.
The Uzbekhs were frustrated by our defense, so much so that they started doing the right thing in showing us how to break a team that is parking that bus, and that is by taking long, hard solid shots from the top of the box, with the other teammates going in to try to score off a rebound. They took around half a dozen such shots in the second half, and scored on one of them as predicted off a rebound.
‘Overall Game Summary’
Jason Sabio I felt continued to play well on defense as he had shown in the UFL recently. I counted at least three deflections from him on shots that would’ve likely gone into the net. The kid is slowly but surely coming into his own on defense, as he had shown against this very strong Uzbekh team.
Ruben Doctora showed some good, one touch passing in some instances that he had the ball, but it was just not enough to make any serious impact on the game. I think James Younghusband played well on defense, especially in the first half, when he was able to figure prominently in defending against some of the Uzbekh’s attack into our box.
I felt we were able to match the U23 Uzbekh White Wolves in the Midfield, but what made them ahead of us was their quality in terms of making those crosses, and making those finishing moves.
The Azkals lack right now, is the ability to change and dictate the tempo of the game. Somebody needs to take charge on the pitch, and say, “Hey guys, let’s slow it down, they are killing us with this high pace”. Or, “Its time to speed things up a bit, guys”. We are stuck on one gear only, we can’t seem to switch gears on the pitch when needed to frustrate our opponents.
We also lacked the ability to take long, hard, accurate shots from outside the box to threaten the goal. I think we need that, too. We just can’t rely on crosses, or individual play into the box to get a good shot, God knows we have not done so well in that department lately. I think Phil especially should start putting that back in his arsenal, as there are teams out there which even he could just not bully/finesse his way into the box.