Azkals vs. U23 Australia, February 16, 2012

February 16, 2012 at the Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, United Arab Emirates: The Australian U23 Olyroos beats the Azkals, 1-0.

Starting XI: Goalkeeper – Neil Etheridge; Defenders – Ray Jonsson, Luis Guirado, Carli De Murgia, Jason Sabio; Midfield – Misagh Bahadoran, Jason De Jong, Angel Guirado, Marwin Angeles; Forwards – Ian Araneta, Dennis Wolf.

Substitutes: Ruben Doctora, Joshua Beloya, Lexton Moy

‘First Half Summary’
Pretty disappointing game for the Azkals at the start of the game, we couldn’t maintain possession, almost every time they challenged where the ball was, they were able to disposses us. In turn, we couldn’t disposses them. As a result, they maintained a LOT of the ball possession.

Since we couldn’t hold on to the ball for any good length of time, we couldn’t launch a lot of good attacks. I did sense things start to improve for us starting from the middle of the first half, probably because they started to get tired of maintaining that ball.

The Olyroos didn’t get a lot of quality crosses, though, not like the U23 Uzbekhs. We have been able to effectively neutralize their crosses, as a result they could only show one goal against us at the half.

Our offense was barely existent, the only bright spot was Dennis Wolf, who made a couple of good runs. Angel Guirado was not as effective in this game, it seems his ankle is hurting him and thus limiting his game. Misagh again has not been so effective in moving that ball forward. He was able to get some dispossessions and make some runs, but not all the way to other end of the pitch. And his passing was pretty poor.

‘Second Half Summary’
The second half was much, MUCH better for the Azkals. We were pressing higher, and therefore kept the Olyroos from dominating the game and possession too much. What surprised me, was how our opponents were unable to adjust to our more offensive game. I thought with our defense opening up, it would’ve given them more opportunities to score goals. They did have a couple of very good attempts, but were unable to finish effectively.

This U23 Australian team definitely is not as good as the U23 Uzbekhs in terms of making those crosses, and finishing. I don’t think they have any chance at all against the White Wolves, they are just not as good.

Angel seemed more rejuvenated in the second half with the Azkals’ more offensive game, not showing any problems with that right ankle of his. He was back to his attacks on the flanks, but his passes and finishing was not good. I counted at least three shots on goal from him that went straight to the goalkeeper. I think he tried hard to rise up to the occassion in terms of finishing and take the place of Chieffy and the Younghusbands, but was unable to do so.

Generally I liked the way Weiss sent his substitutes in this time. He sent Doctora very early, at the start of the second half. He could’ve sent Beloya earlier, at the 60th minute instead of the 75th minute, but nevertheless it was okay. Both were not much of a factor, though, as it was still Wolf and Guirado who carried much of the Azkals’ offense in the second half.

I am pretty disappointed with Beloya’s inability to score that goal off a free kick, I thought he was the type who could finish chances like that, but he didn’t. The ball went straight to him, and bounced up. He turned to kick the ball as it was going down for what would’ve been a very strong volley, but he hit it high and over the crossbar.

‘Other Notes’
I think Weiss’ plan was to play defensively in the first half, settle for a draw or keep the score close, and then play offensively in the second half and go for goal. The first part of the plan sort of worked, as we were able to keep the score down to a minimum, with them only up one goal. The second part of the plan did not work, though, as we were unable to score a goal.
It was a good plan, but I felt we could do better next time in terms of gauging our opponents, and making adjustments quickly instead of waiting for the half. If we had known earlier that the Olyroos would not be able to adjust to a more offensive game, we could’ve made the adjustments earlier and have more time to get those goals.

Again, its all about recognizing our opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, and controlling the tempo, switching gears back and forth if necessary. The ability to play SMARTLY, then ADJUSTING to EXPLOIT weaknesses is what’s been lacking with the Azkals’ game so far.

I hate to say this, but I felt if Chieffy, and/or the Younghusbands were in the game, with their fine finishing qualities, we probably would’ve equalized, or even won the game. Despite being given the opportunity to do so, so far we have been unable to find players who will be able to replace these players in terms of their finishing.

I’m disappointed with our inability to equalize or win this game, but we kept the score close against a very strong Football nation, and remember that our three best finishers were not in the game.

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