Azkals vs. Bahrain Al-Ahmar, October 12, 2012

October 12, 2012 at the Al Muharraq Stadium in Manama, Bahrain for the Azkals’ International Friendly Game against Bahrain’s Al-Ahmar (The Reds): The Azkals hold a scoreless Draw with Bahrain, 0-0.

Active Azkals Players:
(Goalkeeper) – Roland Mueller
(Defenders) – Ray Jonsson, Rob Gier, Juani Guirado, Dennis Cagara
(Midfielders) – Jerry Lucena, Chieffy Caligdong, Patrick Reichelt, Marwin Angeles
(Forwards) – Paul Mulders, Dennis Wolf
(Substitutes) – Misagh Bahadoran, Jeffrey Christiaens, Matthey Uy, OJ Porteria

‘Bahrain National Team’
Bahrain is definitely a quality team, they are light years from the teams we played against in the Peace Cup. This is because first, they all have great individual skills. Overhead passes, ground passes, first touch, etc., they all make it look easy, until you start to realize that, hey, our Azkals are not as smooth with their first touch compared to these guys, even from long balls.

Second is speed. They are all quick and fast, and are able to execute their plays quickly. They definitely play a more up tempo game than ours. Third is aggressiveness. They press high, and are constantly going after the ball. Fourth is endurance. They are able to maintain their up tempo type of game and pressing of the ball almost all throughout the game, slacking off very little with their efforts.

‘Azkals Performance’
Despite the seeming advantages of the Bahrain team, credit the Azkals’ excellent team defense in holding off their attacks. Everytime the Al Ahmar tried to attack in the middle, they always ended up being dispossessioned or their attacks broken off in the final third of the Pitch. The Azkals showed exceptional defense in this game, and they managed to do it the whole game.

A big part of this is probably because we played with our most senior and most experienced Backline, some would say this would arguably be the best Backline we could field in Ray Jonsson and Dennis Cagara on the Wings, and Rob Gier and Juani Guirado at Center. Plus add in our Defensive Midfielder Specialist Jerry Lucena. But it was not just the defensive players, the rest of the Midfielders and even our Forwards helped out on defense, enabling the team to withstand the offensive thrusts of a team ranked more than thirty rungs higher than us.

We played exceptional defense, but we did not park the bus. That is another important point to remember. Its not as if we stayed on our side of the pitch and just waited to fend off their attacks. No, we countered effectively, and truth to tell, it seemed we tested their goalkeeper more than they tested Roland Mueller.

‘Individual Azkals Performance’
Chieffy figured in some good offensive thrusts, and you could actually his ballhandling and speed in play in some defensive situations also.

Misagh Bahadoran had one of his “on” games today, he made two great offensive plays, moving forward and evading his defenders, and then making good passes to the box. The first pass was flubbed by Dennis Wolf when he stumbled on the ground, while the second one resulted in a great shot on goal by OJ Porteria that was just saved by the Goalkeeper.

OJ continues to shine, figuring in at least 3 good plays inside the box. I was surprised how he could maintain possession in the middle of all those defenders, but he is starting to show his quality. At only 18 years of age. I thought Joshua Beloya would do better, but OJ is now pulling away from him in terms of development.

I hate to say this, but we definitely missed Phil Younghusband in this game. Wolf flubbed a one-on-one with the Goalkeeper, and I keep thinking that if PYH had been in his place, that would’ve easily been 1-0. PYH is a Predator, the best Striker with Filipino blood in the Philippines, and he lives to showcase his skill in plays like that.

While we missed PYH, I can’t say the same about James Younghusband. It is obvious now that we have a lot of players who are now as good, or maybe even better than JYH in the Midfield, and none of the baggage. In fact, I am beginning to wonder why the PFF even bothers to call him up to the Azkals nowadays. If he doesn’t fix his “issues”, he may end up like Anton Del Rosario: Obsolete, and out of the Azkals.

I wonder how PYH would react if JYH doesn’t get the call up to the Azkals, but he does one of these days? Will he insist on playin with his brother? That is a looming possibility with all the issues they have both been under in recently.

‘Parting Shot’
It was an overall team effort on defense that thwarted what I felt was the more athletically gifted team. We were not as fast overall, but we were just as skilled, and played with a little bit more heart, and a little bit smarter.

A win would’ve been nice, but drawing a team ranked 115 is a pretty good result in my book. Next up is Kuwait, another high ranking team, and more reinforcements are coming in like Anghel Guirado, Neil Etheridge, the Younghusbands and Demit Omphroy. Based on what the Azkals showed in this game, I expect a good game versus the Kuwaitis …

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