Azkals vs. Singapore Lions, September 7, 2012

September 7, 2012 at the Jurong West Stadium in Singapore, for the Azkals’ International Friendly Game against the Singapore Lions: The Azkals win over the Singapore Lions, 2-0.

Starting XI: Goalkeeper – Neil Etheridge; Defenders – Jeffrey Christaens, Carli De Murga, Jason Sabio, Rob Gier; Midfielders – James Younghusband, Jerry Lucena, Stephan Schrock, Chieffy Caligdong; Forwards – Phil Younghusband, Paul Mulders

Substitutes: Jason De Jong, Patrick Reichelt, Dennis Wolf, Misagh Bahadoran, Marwin Angeles

‘Singapore Lions’
I like the way Singapore Lions play, great possession game, and great passing, very entertaining to watch. However, it is a prime example of maintaining possession too much, and not having enough creativity to actually score goals. Most European Coaches like this style because even if the team loses, they could just say, “hey, we maintained possession majority of the time” (as if that actually counts more than a goal in Football).

In the second half, seeing how their vaunted ground game was going nowhere, they tried using long balls, but kudos to our defensive backline for fending them off again and again. This game sort of showed that the Lions aren’t really much without their Olympic-level Sprinter “Import” Aleksandr Duric, and Duric is already in his forties, so one wonders how the Lions will fare in a post-Duric future soon.

Casmir (number 25), another Import, from Nigeria this time, was very intimidating on offense, my anxiety level rose up a notch everytime the ball went near him. But kudos to Rob Gier for containing him each and every time, especially in the middle.

The Lions didn’t seem to play inspired ball. They should’ve shut Schrock down when he started making a couple of passes, but they did not. Then again, Schrock was quite shifty, eluding double teams with his nifty ballhandling and fakes.

‘Individual Performances’
Chieffy waited nine months into the year to score his first goal in 2012 (he had six in 2011). It was more of a lucky bounce, but a goal is a goal, nonetheless. I hope it will give him the momentum to score more in the remaining games of the Azkals this year.

Paul Mulders was a bit quiet in this game, as opposed to his superb game against Cambodia. He has had to relinquish that center field to the more illustrious Schrock, who did a fantastic job at Center Mid Field.

Stephan Schrock finally showed his Bundesliga Main Division form, a much better performance than his last game for the Azkals (against Indonesia). He was dispossessing opponents, maintaining ball possession against close challenges, and making ABSOLUTELY fantastic passes. Both of the Azkals’ goals were off a great passes from Stephan. Not only that, he had at least half a dozen passes that got his teammates into dangerous scoring position.

Schrock is the BEST passer among the Azkals now, BAR NONE. Mulders is a superb passer on his own, but his passes have all been ground passes, which tends to have a shorter range, and slower, too. Schrock’s passes were long balls, which cannot be intercepted, faster (catching the defense sooner) since it has less resistance in the air, and have a much longer range. It is also quite difficult to do accurately consistently.

The only Fil-For who can be as good as Schrock in terms of those long ball passes is Mark Hartmann, but he doesn’t have Schrock’s speed, or ballhandling and ballwinning ways. His attittude is quite legendary, too.

Phil Younghusband was still off in the first half, again missing some fantastic chances, but finally got his groove back in the second half with another goal for the Azkals, his EIGHTH this year alone. With about at least half a dozen games to go, it is likely that we will see PYH shoot his goal tally for the Azkals into double figures before the year ends. PYH is at his prime right now, and will maintain that for a couple of years before tapering off, so we need to SAVOR the best that PYH can be which is starting now.

Our defensive backline of Jason Sabio, Rob Gier, Carli De Murga and Jeff Christaens, and Jerry Lucena a Defensive Mid Field should all be commended for playing very solid defense, withstanding a vast majority of the Lion’s attack. Their defensive intensity has helped the Azkals get the second straight clean sheet in as many games. I would like to see for how long they can help maintain that clean sheet successively.

Jeff did very well for a young guy, and Rob was great in the middle, especially in containing the intimidating Casmir in the middle. I am a bit concerned about Rob, though. He is past his thirties, and seeing him huff and puff out there in the 2nd half made me wonder if he could last the whole game (he did). But for how long can Rob compete effectively at this rate, at this level?

‘Parting Shot’
A HUGE sigh of relief for me. At least now we can confidently say to the rest of South East Asia that NO, our win over Vietnam two years ago was NOT a fluke. The Azkals are for real, we did NOT just get lucky. And coming off another pedigreed SEA country, too, not just some minor Football country like Cambodia, Laos, etc.

I would like to record this game, I hope somebody uploads it on Youtube, because one, I would like again to see and appreciate in the years to come how good Schrock can play; And two, I don’t know WHEN our next win over a South East Asian team will come again, I hope we won’t have to wait another two years (2014? Holy crap).

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