Azkals vs. Guam, September 25, 2012

September 25, 2012 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila, Philippines for the Azkals’ first game in the 2012 Peace Cup against the Guam: The Azkals win over Guam, 1-0.

Starting XI: Goalkeeper – Ed Sacapano; Defenders – Jeffrey Christaens, Carli De Murga, Jason De Jong, Anto Gonzales; Midfielders – Demetrius Omphroy, Marwin Angeles, Misagh Bahadoran, Chieffy Caligdong; Forwards – Denis Wolf, Ian Araneta

Substitutes: Matthew Uy, Jason Sabio, Lexton Moy, OJ Porteria, Patrick Reichelt, Marvin Angeles

‘Game Summary’
We beat this team by three goals last June 2012 in Panaad, but in this game, the two players who scored those goals, Phil Younghusband and Anghel Guirado, are not around anymore on the team. The result? 19 Shots on Goal the entire game, 10 of them on Target, and yet only one goal to show for it.

One important thing to remember is that against stronger teams, we will not be able to make as many shots on goal as we did on this game, hence a lot of opportunity was lost in piling up those goals. Worst, if it means we need to take that many shots just to score one goal, then we won’t be able to score if we don’t take that many shots.

The Azkals dominated possession and everything else, although to be fair Guam, like the last game again went down fighting. They did have a couple of good attempts, especially during counter-attacks, but credit Ed Sacapano for making a couple of great saves.

Weiss to his credit used all of his substitutes, allowing more Azkals to show their wares at home. Also, since this tournament means playing three games in five days, it is critical to pace your players as much as possible, and he made the right call this time.

‘Azkals Individual Performances’
The relative weakness of this Guam team made a lot of the Azkals look very good out there on Pitch, so I think I will just write about the ones that shone the most.

I will remember this game as the Demetrius Omphroy’s BREAKOUT game for the Azkals. Given the chance to start for the Azkals, he got to show what he is made of, making great thru balls, very impressive with his ballhandling, and showing everyone the most potent weapon in his arsenal: The Chip Shot. His Chip Shots allowed him to evade defenders, and make great passes to open teammates. I counted at least five or six great Chip Shots from him, at least three of which resulted in great shots on target for the Azkals.

He also made a couple of fantastic crosses as well. I see Demet as being a very important part of the Azkals soon, even more so than all of the other youngsters like Patrick Reichelt, Marwin Angeles or OJ Porteria. If Demet gets the chance to play alongside Phil and James Younghusband (as I hope will happen) again, two of the better finishers of the team for a couple more games, then it could make for a very interesting offensive combination for the Azkals.

Jeff Christiaens continues to play fantastically at Left Back. His youth, speed, ballhandling and endurance allows him to be a factor on offense, to complement his great defensive plays. I think Ray Jonsson can now sleep soundly at the thought that his Left Back position will be secured for the next couple of years once he retires.

Were it not for Demetrius Omphroy’s fantastic game, Chieffy Caligdong would’ve been my Player of the Game. He did his best emulating Stephan Schrock, and did a pretty good job of doing it. Making steals, evading defenders and keeping possession, and making at least half a dozen crosses into the box. Its good to see Chieffy back to 100% again and being orchestrating the Azkals offense like he is expected to.

Finally, a clean sheet for Ed Sacapano in a FIFA International A game since 2010. He did play very well, making a couple of important savesl. And unlike before, he is a bit more vocal in this game against his backline, providing some measure of leadership there. True, Guam is not really that strong a team, and tougher teams lie ahead, but with Ed, we should take it one game at a time.

Patrick Reichelt finally opens his scoring account for the Azkals, but frankly his goal wasn’t really that impressive, it was more of a lucky shot than anything else. It was a weak header that bounced off the ground, possible only because of the Goalkeeper’s indecision in catching that ball instead.

‘Guam Individual Performances’
Despite making a mistake that allowed that goal against them, I think Guam’s Goalkeeper Dough Herrick is the Man of the Match for that team. He showed great decision making, and excellent reflexes as well, fending off two good volleys from Misagh Bahadoran and Lexton Moy. But when you team allows too many shots on goal like Guam did, expect one or two to eventually trickle into the goal, like what happened.

Ryan Guy, their star player who currently plays for the New England Patriots in the Major League Soccer in the US, was a bit of a disappointment, having a very quiet game against the Azkals. I can’t remember him making any great individual plays, or figuring prominently in team plays.

Another Guanamian player to note was Defender Leon Guerrero. He did make a couple of important stops, though a couple die get thru. He also made a mistake that allowed Wolf to frolic in the box. However, he was quite busy the entire game, and was able to fend off most attacks.

‘Parting Shot’
A pretty poor game for the Azkals. Yes, we won, and dominated the game, but we were expected to blow this team out by at least three goals. Instead, we only won by the slimmest of margins, 1-0. On top of that, Reichelt’s goal was not really that convincing, it was more out of lucky shot than anything else.

Its bad enough that our European players were out, its even worst when one of the best Strikers in the history of Philippine Football, and one of the best Strikers in Asia right now in Phil Younghusband (PYH) is out of the team. I can understand that the Philippine Football Federation (PFF)’s insistence on maintaining discipline with the team, but one wonders if they could’ve found some other way to get their message across to the Younghusbands?

As for Phil and James, it does seem that the two has been slacking off a bit too much already. They are certainly earning a lot of money, from the expensive contract with the Meralco Sparks, to the numerous endorsements they have been getting, which is VERY lucrative. So I think its bullshit for them to keep talking about being “breadwinners”, or “earning a living”. They are now earning more than enough, time to back off and NOT BE TOO GREEDY. Back off on the greed, we all have an idea what you are earning, and how much you have already earned since 2011.

As it is right now, Philippine Football is the biggest loser. Without the Younghusbands, I am not so confident that the Azkals can finally bag a title after 99 years (the last title a National Football team has won was in 1913). Worst is the fact that the Azkals could lose the tournament AT HOME, where it is supposed to have the best chance of winning one. Macau has beefed up its roster with a couple of quality imports, and Chinese Taipei has always been a competitive team in Asia. If we have all this trouble against Guam, how much more against these two other teams now?

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