My Azkals 2012 Peace Cup Stint Reflections

‘Stats and Awards’
The Azkals wins all of its three games in the tournament, in the process scoring nine goals in three games, averaging an impressive three goals per game. They also only conceded only one goal, and saved one penalty shot in the three games.

In terms of awards, the Azkals sweep all of the individual and team awards, with Jeff Christaens wins “Best Defender”; Matthew Uy wins “Best Midfielder”; Dennis Wolf winning the “Golden Boot” Award with four goals in the tournament, with his first Hat Trick for the Azkals. He also win the “Most Valuable Player” Award of the tournament. Even Ed Sacapano got in on the act and wins the “Best Goalkeeper” of the tournament, conceding only one goal in three games, saving a Penalty Shot and having a Clean Sheet in two of the three games he played in. The Azkals as a team also wins the “Fair Play” Award.

The Philippine National Football team wins its first title in 99 years, with our last title having been won in 1913.

‘Team Performance’
This team does seem to play with much better chemistry than the other Azkals teams I have seen before. They sustain their passing game much longer, and can be creative in the final half of the pitch. They simply play with much better teamwork out there on the Pitch. I guess Weiss finally found the combination of players he wanted, meaning those who are technically gifted in various aspects of the game, specifically ballhandling and passing, and one who work well together as a team.

Testament to that teamwork is that different players shone the best each game, at least for me. In the first game, it was Demetrius Omphroy. In the second, it was Dennis Wolf, and finally Anto Gonzales and Matthew Uy in the last game. It seemed the players took turns in shining for the team, resulting in true team effort.

It is mostly a young, athletic team, meaning they have quickness, speed, and most importantly, endurance. It was to the team’s advantage to have such players in a short tournament playing three games in five days, and it showed in the results.

I also noticed that the players tend to be more forgiving or tolerant when somebody makes an error. They just usually put their palms out to the players or to the coaching staff when they make mistakes, and everybody (except for Weiss) keeps quiet about it.

‘Individual Performances’
It looks like some sort of a changing of the Guards with this team in this tournament. Weiss started out with mostly the veterans in the first game, but slowly the young Turks took over when they started to show their value to the team. OJ Porteria and Patrick Reichelt scores their first goals for the Azkals, with Reichelt scoring two in the tournament. The two, along with Matthew Uy, started getting more and more playing time, eventually moving to the Starting Lineup.

Dennis Wolf had a breakout tournament, scoring his first Hat Trick before eventually winning both the MVP and Golden Boot Award. In a way, you can call this the “Tournament of the Wolf”. Demet Omphroy started impressively for the Azkals, sort of petering out in the last game, but still being an integral part of the Azkals offense.

Chieffy Caligdong is definitely back, scoring two goals in the tournament and making up for a lackluster performance the first half of the year. Ed Sacapano has learned to play smarter, with more confidence, and with more decisiveness. He has learned to decide when to come out of his line and commit himself to getting the ball, and in the process earned the “Best Goalkeeper Award” of the tournament.

Note that in the 2011 Long Teng Cup, Chieffy won the “Golden Boot Award”. This year, though the competition was renamed, another Azkal won the same award in Dennis Wolf. Since 2011, Chieffy has now scored six goals in the tournament.

Ian Araneta had a pretty bad tournament. He hasn’t scored a goal, and eventually lost his place in the starting lineup. As I keep saying, Ian is a pretty one dimensional player, lacking ballhandling and passing skills to be of any real value in international tournaments. I wonder if we have seen the last of him with the Azkals, especially as the others have ended up proving themselves?

Another player with a bad tournament is Misagh Bahadoran. He now has seen two other newcomers score ahead of him. I used to think that his ballhandling was an asset, but now not so much anymore. He does seem to dribble too much, instead of passing off and moving and waiting for the pass back. As a result, he always end up being swamped by defenders. Worst is that his passing is mediocre, more like hit or miss. Sometimes its there, most of the time its not. He has to realize that Football is not like Futsal, or Basketball, where dribbling skills are highly prized. Other skills such as First Touch, One Touch Passing and Pass and Move are much more important.

‘Parting Shot’
I have to admit that I had SEVERE doubts about this team making good in this tournament, much more winning the title. No European players, and no Younghusbands, just a bunch of new, young players. And yet Weiss has proven me wrong again. Weiss can be bullheaded, making very brave and unpopular decisions. Like having mediocre Friendly game results, or leaving the best players out of the team. Or even putting Midfielders in the Back Line, for example. Notice that NONE of the starting backline are natural defenders. They have all played Mid Field before the Azkals.

However, most of his decisions have eventually worked out well, and he has delivered during tournaments, leading the Azkals to a historic third place finish in the AFC Challenge Cup early this year, and now leading the Azkals to its first title in almost a century. He does seem to know what he is doing, and perhaps we just need to continue to trust his judgements, until they start to fail to deliver results, anyway.

With the team playing so well, with so much chemistry, one wonders: Does the team still need the European-based players, and the Younghusbands? The result for this tournament is highly impressive. However, they are mostly low ranking teams, with Taiwan about the only one giving us some semblance of competition.

I think we will need to see it up against much better competition, and that opportunity will present itself as the last three opponents before the Suzuki Cup are very tough indeed, against two Middle East teams, and Singapore. If the team continues to play well against these tough opponents, then perhaps it can be gambled upon to represent the country in the Suzuki Cup.

Attendance in the tournament was a bit disappointing, the Rizal Memorial Coliseum never saw a full house, with the best attendance coming in on the last day, and it was only about 2/3 full or about 12,000 people.

The “Ultras Filipinas” was a big revelation, cheering on the team like true Football fans should, noisy, and non-stop or enduring all throughout the game. I think the group was formed after the Indonesian fans thoroughly routed the Azkaleros during the home game against Indonesia. It was a disgrace to see the fewer foreigners rout the more numerous Azkaleros at the Azkals home turf with their non-stop cheering.

I never really liked the Kaholeros, seeing how they maintained the Azkals Facebook Fan Page. Most of them were clearly just Azkals Nuthuggers, watching Football only because they thought the players were quite good-looking. LOL.


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