Azkals vs. Vietnam Red Warriors, November 27, 2012

November 27, 2012 at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand for the Azkals’ second game in the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup against the Vietnames Red Warriors (no, they are not related to the University of the East Basketball team): The Azkals beat Vietnam, 1-0.

Active Azkals Players:
(Goalkeeper) – Ed Sacapano
(Defenders) – Ray Jonsson, Rob Gier, Juani Guirado, Dennis Cagara
(Midfielders) – James Younghusband, Jerry Lucena, Jason De Jong, Patrick Reichelt
(Forwards) – Paul Mulders, Phil Younghusband
(Substitutes) – Anghel Guirado, Dennis Wolf, Chieffy Caligdong

‘Game Observations’
A mostly even match, with the Azkals showing just a little bit more quality, with the two teams showing a contrasting style of play: Vietnam with their Mid-Range Shots and reliance on speed, athleticism and timing by throwing long balls and hoping their passes are accurate enough and that their man will beat the Offside Trap;

And the Azkals, who played a more deliberate style of Football which Weiss favors, and which the Azkals thankfully followed this time around. Defense was very good, with nine men on our side of the Pitch when the Vietnamese attacks, and then slowly and deliberately moving the ball forward with a series of passes into the opponent’s box.

Between the two teams, the Azkals clearly had more chances, and the better chances, which eventually resulted in the goal. We played like how we played against Bahrain, Kuwait and Singapore.

Weiss said later in the Post Match interview that the plan was to hold the Vietnamese at bay, and then put in fresh substitions to make a final push for the match. In this game, the plan worked beautifully as we stymied the Vietnamese attacks, and then it was the play between the subs Chieffy Caligdong and Anghel Guirado which produced the goal.

It was also a stroke of genius for Weiss to field in Jason De Jong alongside Jerry Lucena, because then you have two defensive-minded Central Midfielders. It was one of the main reasons our defense held, and from hereon you will know the Azkals will play defensively when you see Lucena and De Jong together at Midfield.

‘Individual Performances’
Phil Younghusband again had a shitty game, which is worrisome since he has gone thru at least three or four international matches now without a goal. He usually averages less than two games between goals, and now he is twice above that average. I thought PYH would shine in this tournament, but obviously that hasn’t happened yet. He will continue to get his playing time and starting spot, at least for now, but its good to see the other Azkals take up the cudgel in terms of scoring.

PYH did have one good chance early in the game, a open shot on the net but unfortunately (and strangely), he stumbled. He as only about 2-3 yards from the goal, and if had not stumbled and hit that shot solidly, it would’ve been 1-0 early in the game.

Its good to see Chieffy Caligdong score again, this is his third for this year, and bouncing back from his mediocre performance against Thailand. The ball landed just the right distance in front of him, he caught it with a decent first touch, and then hit it with his left foot, his stronger side since he is left-footed. Just a perfect setup for Chieffy. Maybe Chieffy is better coming in as a sub, where he can play only thirty or so minutes, but at full throttle.

Anghel Guirado is definitely the Man of the Match for me, nearly scoring a goal and making that critical overhead pass to Chieffy. His near goal was the result of getting away from his Defender which resulted in a one-on-one with the Goalkeeper. But his shot was blocked at the last minute by the body of another Defender.

The ESPN-Star Sports Commentators were impressed with his performance, comparing him with Liverpool’s Andy Carroll. They have the same build, the same height, and also the same ponytail, and they are both quite effective on the attack. This game proves again how critical Anghel is to the Azkals’ offense.

Our Defense again was excellent, breaking up the Vietnamese offense around the box again and again. The Vietnamese had very little room to take a good shot or make passes, everytime they do their plays in and around the box they were almost always broken up. Kudos to our veteran Backline and Central Midfielders for coming up with a better result this time, blanking Vietnam.

Ed Sacapano again saved the day for the Azkals, making some good saves off some great Mid Range Shots from the Vietnamese, and deflecting that critical shot upwards, bouncing it off the Crossbar. Were it not for his quick reflexes, the score would’ve been tied, and we would’ve ended up with only one point for this match.

Admittedly, I am not a big fan of Jason De Jong, he does play defense well but his offense is highschool level. He proved that again in this game, making long ball passes to E.T. You can’t rely anything more than short-ground passes with him. But his tenacity on defense helped the team greatly in terms of withstanding the Vietnamese offense again and again.

‘Parting Shot’
I sort of expected a match like this, pretty much even, with us scoring the marginal goal, but I was hoping for a better result, like at least a two goal win. Then again, this is our region’s version of the World Cup, there are no easy games here, just like an Ateneo-De La Salle Basketball game in the UAAP.

A lot of people felt sorry for the Vietnamese, they all looked so forlorn after Chieffy scored the goal. Their Coach in particular looked incredibly sad. He was sweating, and looked as if he had suddenly learned that he had just lost both of his parents and was just about to break out and cry. The Vietnamese must probably all hate the Philippines right now for toppling them out of their place South East Asian Football.

We are not out of the woods yet, we still need to beat Myanmar. They may have slighlty less quality than Vietnam, but the desire to play well for their country is there. If we play complacent, Myanmar could end up giving us a Draw, or God forbid, could end up with a win. The Azkals should not relax as long as we do not have a two goal advantage against that team.

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