Azkals vs. Thailand War Elephants, November 24, 2012

November 24, 2012 at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand for the Azkals’ first game in the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup against Thailand: The Thai War Elephants beat the Azkals, 2-1.

Active Azkals Players:
(Goalkeeper) – Ed Sacapano
(Defenders) – Ray Jonsson, Rob Gier, Juani Guirado, Dennis Cagara
(Midfielders) – James Younghusband, Jerry Lucena, Paul Mulders, Chieffy Caligdong
(Forwards) – Angel Guirado, Phil Younghusband
(Substitutes) – Jeffrey Christiaens, Marwin Angeles, Patrick Reichelt

‘Game Summary’
No doubt that Thailand thoroughly dominated this game on both ends of the Pitch. They had a lot of chances, while we only had a few. We had trouble moving forward, and never really troubled the Thais until Patrick Reichelt went into the game. The Thais do not move the ball as fast as the Bahrainis or Kuwaitis, but they have fantastic reflexes, and pinpoint accurate passes and shots.

Proof of that was the two goals they scored against us. The first was off a pinpoint Cross from the Left Flank that was quickly slotted in by Jakkapan Pornsai (Pornstar?). The next was a beautiful three player combination play that will be on the highlight reel of Thai Football for months if not years to come. Thru ball to the middle, one-touch Backheel pass to a streaking player and he was on a one-on-one with Ed Sacapano, resulting in a goal. Just GREAT REFLEXES on the part of the Thais, that ability to react lightning fast and with pinpoint accuracy.

We were a bit lucky that Thailand slacked off in the second half after scoring two goals in the first half, and that we scored a goal in the very few attacks we made. At least something to cheer about for the team.

I think we defended as well as we should, our defenders did have some good tackles and stops throughout the game. But the Thai offense was just too good, too precise, too much finesse to defend against effectively.

‘Thai War Elephants’
The Thais were quite physical, though. Phil Younghusband ended up with a nasty gash on the edge of his left eyebrow; Then Jerry Lucena got hit with a knee on the back of the head, putting him out of commission for a couple of minutes. Then Theerasil (Clearasil?) Dangda gave Juani Guirado an Elbow that we later learned chipped his tooth. I think Juani should’ve gone down, and with that bloody tooth Clearasil could’ve been sent off, putting them down to ten men and putting us in a good position to equalize and win that game.

Most impressed with Clearasil Dangda, he was the one who made that final Backheel pass. Jakkapan Pornstar also gave us a lot of problems, aside from scoring that goal. He is a flashy dribbler, and his ability to hold on to the ball and move forward gave our defenders problems in containing him. He was driving their offense with his crosses.

Aside from their offense, their defense was also pretty good. They have good timing, making tackles and interceptions at the last minute that broke off our attacks. They were pretty solid, and it took our best moves plus a little luck to score that goal.

‘Azkals Individual Performances’
Despite conceding two goals, I think Ed Sacapano played well in this game. He fisted a couple of shots out, made some great saves, and made good decisions in terms of catching and getting the ball that would’ve otherwise been good scoring opportunities for the Thais. I doubt if Neil or Roland could’ve done better, as those Thai goals came off difficult situations. They had to work for their goals, and really required them to use their full superior qualities to make them. What I like about EdSa is his quickness. Neil is tall and has length, but not as quick or shifty as the smaller EdSa.

Chieffy Caligdong and James Younghusband had trouble moving that ball forward on the attack. Hard to believe, but it seems to me that these two veterans either choked on the pressure, were overwhelmed by the Thai defense, or both. I am guessing that Weiss will make bold moves in the Vietnam game, and leave these two out, at least in the Starting Lineup.

Phil Younghusband was also a non-factor in the game, he was clearly a marked man and was unable to move the ball forward, and also had no effective feeds for him to work with. However, he is still our best Striker in the team. He has proven that in the past games this year, and we just need to keep trying to help him get the openings that he needs, and hope he will deliver again.

Patrick Reichelt was superb. His speed, dribbling and passing enabled him to move forward and make that Cross that resulted in the goal.

Anghel Guirado also had trouble moving the ball forward, it was obvious that he did not have the pace to outrun his defenders. I felt he didn’t get enough support, as when 2 or 3 defenders started swarming over him he did not have anybody moving around enough to pass on to.

The rest of the Azkals played well on defense, they had their moments in terms of breaking off attacks, but there was just too much quality on offense on the part of the Thais to contain them all game through.

‘Parting Shot’
I felt we played bad not only because we conceded 2 goals, but because our offense was mainly non-existent for most of the game. It wasn’t until Reichelt came in that the opportunity was given on offense, which we capitalized on.

If it were up to me, I would definitely start Reichelt in the next game in place of JYH. If Wolf is healthy, I would put him behind PYH, switch Anghel to the Left in place of Chieffy. This Reichelt-Anghel-Wolf-PYH combination on offense is a proven one in past games, I feel this is our best option on the attack.

Defensively, we did well, but not well enough. Maybe it would be better to start thinking about having younger players in the flanks, namely Jeffrey Christiaens on the Left, and Demit Omphroy on the Right. Then perhaps move Dennis Cagara on Center Back. That would be a drastic change in lineup, leaving most of our veterans out. This is definitely something to think about, whether for implementation this tournament, or beyond this tournament.

For our next game, I think Vietnam is very much a beatable team, and that individually our Azkals are better. But the problem is that the stake is so big that just like in UAAP Basketball, the motivation is so strong to do better that weaker teams end up giving stronger teams a lot of trouble. Hence we are still not out of the woods yet in this tournament. We need to win against Vietnam, and then Myanmar.

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