October 16, 2012 at the Kuwait Stadium in Kuwait City, Kuwait for the Azkals’ International Friendly Game against the Kuwaiti Al-Azraq (The Blue): Kuwait beat the Azkals, 2-1.
Active Azkals Players:
(Goalkeeper) – Neil Etheridge
(Defenders) – Ray Jonsson, Rob Gier, Juani Guirado, Dennis Cagara
(Midfielders) – Jerry Lucena, Chieffy Caligdong, Patrick Reichelt, Marwin Angeles
(Forwards) – Paul Mulders, Dennis Wolf
(Substitutes) – Carli De Murga, Phil Younghusband, Anghel Guirado, Demitrius Omphroy
This is a game of two halves. In the first half, the Kuwaitis played like gods out there on the Pitch. They had fantastic pace, but what makes them so good is their pinpoint-laser passing. Despite their pace, they are able to execute passes that are so precise it is able to break through even in between multiple defenders.
It is unbelievable, its almost as if they are mentally guiding the ball where to go exactly at which time. That passing enabled them to make passes thru even in between multiple defenders. The only reason why the score remained at 1-0 at the half in favor of the Kuwaitis was the individual efforts of Neil Etheridge.
We played much better in the second half, due to a number of reasons. First was that Weiss was able to make the adjustment of clogging the middle to keep the Kuwaitis from making the same kind of passes they were making before. Second was that Kuwait had pulled out a number of their starters out from the game. At the same time, we also made some substitutions, including one that dropped Mulders down into the Midfield instead of out front.
As a result, Kuwait’s vaunted passing game was suddenly not as impressive as it was anymore, with their plays being broken up more often than not as they launched their attacks. On the other end, the presence of Anghel, Carli and Phil seems to have energized the Azkals attack, and suddenly we were the more dangerous side. Despite that, though, it still turned out that we didn’t have the finishing to score more goals against this team, not at their level.
We did score off a Penalty Kick by Phil, but the Referee seemed to have tried to make it up by calling a Penalty shot against our side later, in which the Kuwaitis were able to score.
In the first half where the Kuwaitis had wave after wave of chances, focus is on the Goalkeeper, and the Man of the match would definitely be Neil Etheridge. The two goals conceded by him in the match tend to overshadow the fact that he had made a couple of excellent saves, including a Penalty Shot that would’ve inflated the score even more.
The combination of Paul Mulders and Jerry Lucena in Central Midfield I felt also contributed a lot in stunting the Kuwaitis’ offense in the second half. With those two at Center Midfield, the Kuwaitis suddenly had problems breaking thru in the middle. Marwin Angeles was paired up with Lucena in the first half in the same position, but did not do as well against the quality of the Kuwaitis’ Midfield.
Patrick Reichelt again made a very strong performance in the Right Wing with his pace and ballhandling. He consistently was able to punch thru Kuwaitis’ defense on the right side, and again making nice ground passes and crosses into the box. After a strong performance against a quality team, I think he now owns that Right Midfield side.
Juani Guirado played in what probably is his worst game for the Azkals so far, getting a Yellow Card, and then making a couple more fouls that could’ve gotten him another Yellow Card and thus leaving the Azkals with only 10 men, against such a strong side. Worst was his panicky and clumsy challenge that resulted in a Penalty Kick for the Azkals, which luckily was saved by Neil. Juani has been away from the Azkals for a long while, and I wonder why he had to be so hot-headed and making poor decisions in his comeback game.
Kuwait was coming off a couple of losses, and since this is just a Friendly game and not a Qualifying tournament like the last time we played against them, I thought we would have a better chance of beating them this time around. However, it was not to be, as the Azkals’ weakness on defense was exposed in the first half.
We rebounded well from that exposure in the second half, but then our weakness on offense was the next one to be exposed. We don’t have that ability to have one-touch and shoot the ball strong into the goal, and we don’t have the range from outside the box to shoot goals with laser-like precision. Our passing game is also not fast and accurate enough to break thru the opponent’s defense.
A disappointing result for me. This game was supposed to gauge how far we have gone within a year against the same team, and I was hoping for a better result this time around. The fact that we didn’t showed the Azkals still have a long way to go in terms of competing well against teams ranked around the century mark by FIFA.