Azkals October 2012 Middle East Tour Reflections

‘The Bahrain, Kuwaiti National Teams and the Azkals’
Between the game against Bahrain and Kuwait, I think we learned much more playing against the more formidable Kuwaiti squad. They effectively exposed our team’s weaknesses, and it gave us something to work on for the more important games in the coming Suzuki Cup.

Bahrain had speed and endurance, but the Kuwaitis also had that, and more: Their Passing Precision. That combination of Speed and Passing Precision allowed them to initially render the Azkals’ defense porous. I have not seen such combination with any of the South East Asian teams, usually they either have one, or the other. Like Malaysia, for example. They play an up-tempo type of game, but the precision of their passing is not as precise.

On the other end of the spectrum, Singapore plays a mean passing game, but they play at a much slower speed, rendering them to be not as effective in terms of breaking down their opponent’s defense.

Despite the Azkals’ defense being initially exposed against Kuwait, credit the team for finding the tactical solutions and personnel to effectively deal with the Kuwaitis’ speed and passing. This will be valuable lesson in time for the coming Suzuki Cup.

On offense, the Azkals still lack the qualities that enable them to compete with teams like Kuwait, though. For one, we do not have the speed and passing precision that will allow us to penetrate our opponent’s defense. And another is that we don’t have medium range precision shooters that can shoot quickly, accurately and with power from just outside the box.

That would’ve helped open up the opponent’s defense if our players had that kind of quality. One wonders if we will ever be able to see that quality with this generation of players.

‘Individual Performances’
Our most veteran Backline of Rob Gier, Ray Jonsson, Juani Guirado and Dennis Cagara did well against Bahrain, but needed additional help in the Midfield against Kuwait. Marwin Angeles sort of crumbled at Central Midfield against the Kuwaitis, and it was Paul Mulders moved to his spot that our defense did a better job of stunting the Kuwaitis’ attack.

Chieffy did well in the left flank, but I felt that Anghel Guirado just did better, especially on offense. I also felt that Carli De Murga did better in place of Ray Jonsson at Right Back, as he was able to contribute more offensively. He had a good shot on goal, and it just seemed the Azkals offense flowed much better with him on the Pitch.

Dennis Wolf does his job of contributing to the Azkals offense, but to me he clearly just lacks the finishing skills to be a reliable Striker. This means that Phil Younghusband still remains indispensable to the team. I think Weiss should continue to look for an alternate Striker since it is obvious that Ian Araneta is finished with the Azkals, and I still insist that he give Tating Pasilan a shot with the team as he has nothing to lose anymore anyway.

After two strong performances against two strong teams, I think Patrick Reichelt now will be the choice starter at Right Midfield now for the Azkals. And with guys on the bench like Demitrius Omphroy and Misagh Bahadoran who can play that side well, I think James Younghusband is now officially obsolete for the Azkals.

JYH plays hard on both ends of the pitch, and has shown to be pretty good in the air in the UFL, but his contributions to the Azkals so far has been not as impressive. Reichelt is younger, faster, and a much better ballhandler. Also, his passing to the middle is arguably better than JYH. And most importantly, he doesn’t have the baggage that comes along with JYH.

After being benched in their game against Kuwait, I wonder now how James will react to this. Will he just continue to accept his benching, which will probably continue from hereon, or just opt to stay away from the Azkals? How will Phil react in such a situation? It seems the Saga of the PFF and the Younghusbands continues.

‘Parting Shot’
With only one more official Friendly against Singapore remaining before the Suzuki Cup, I think that we can now predict the strongest Azkals team we can form based on the performances the last few games. To me, the Starting XI would probably have to be like this:
* Goalkeeper – Neil Etheridge
* Left Back – Dennis Cagara
* Center Defense – Rob Gier, Juani Guirado
* Right Back – Carli De Murga
* Left Wing – Anghel Guirado
* Right Wing – Patrick Reichelt
* Center Midfield, Defense – Jerry Lucena
* Center Midfield, Attack – Paul Mulders
* Strikers – Phil Younghusband, Dennis Wolf

As alternates would be the following:
* Goalkeeper – Roland Mueller
* Left Back – Jeffrey Christiaens
* Center Defense – Matthew Uy
* Right Back – Ray Jonsson
* Left Wing – Chieffy Caligdong
* Right Wing – Demitrius Omphroy, Misagh Bahadoran
* Center Midfield, Defense – Anto Gonzales
* Center Midfield, Attack – Marwin Angeles
* Strikers – Patrick Reichelt

Note that I did not pick alternates from the bench if I don’t see them as being able to contribute well in their positions. I would rather switch players to another position, and just get a worthy player to fill up that vacant position. For example, Reichelt will probably have to move up in case Wolf or Phil comes out, with his vacant position on the Right Flank being filled by Misagh.

For Center Defense, I think Carli De Murga will be the best alternate in case Rob or Juani are not available, with his position at Right Back being replaced by Ray Jonsson.

These are the list of players I feel are critical to have in the Suzuki Cup. In case we can have all of them, then IMHO we can field the strongest team possible. It would be nice to have Stephan Schrock in, but the way things are set up now, I think we can expect Schrock to play only 2-3 games a year for the Azkals.

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