Thailand this early looks unbeatable in this tournament, leading me to believe that the rest of the countries are now just fighting for second place, with them sure-ball of winning the trophy. They are in Football what the Philippines is in Basketball in South East Asia: A cut above the rest, with a skill level way above everyone else. What makes them so deadly are the accuracy of their passing, and the fact that their passes are often overhead, making pin-point short lob passes, or spot on crosses. This makes them almost unbeatable for now, in my book. And its not just the passes, the finishing is there as well, with them scoring an outstanding nine goals in three games for an average of three goals per game, while conceding only two goals in three games.
Malaysia tries to play like Thailand, but their passes are not half as precise. They have finesse, but its not up there to the level of the Thais yet. I won’t be surprised if the Thais are their idols, hence the effort to play like them.
Indonesia I feel is VASTLY overrated. They may be effective, they are able to threaten the goal well with their speed and Mid Range shots, but their game utterly lacks finesse. They basically just rely on making a lucky long ball pass, then outrunning the opposing team while hopefully beating the Offside trap. It is very predictable, and ugly. IMHO, I think the only reason why Indonesia keeps getting a lot of prestige and buzz in South East Asia is because Indonesians are crazy about Football, and they have a Multi-Million Dollar league out there. I can’t understand how the Indonesians love the game so much, and yet end up playing it without finnesse? In fairness, the recent politicking in their sport also has greatly contributed to their decline in status in SEA.
Singapore has a little bit of everything. They have a decent ground game, and they have range on their shots, making them dangerous from Mid-Range and on Set Pieces. And they still have Aleksandr Duric, an Olympic-level Sprinter who also plays a mean game of Football. Duric is still their most effective attacker not only because of his speed, but his height, size and dribbling ability enables him to push that ball forward against most defenders.
Myanmar and Laos are the minnows of this tournament stage, they don’t have the overall individual quality to be at par with the best of South East Asia. However, they do play with a lot of heart, which is why games against them will always be difficult as playing them complacent means giving them the edge in terms of intensity.
The Azkals scored in all three games of the Quarter Finals, in total four goals for an average of 1.33 goals per game. They conceded only two goals in this stage, and both goals coming in on the game against Thailand, while keeping a clean slate for the other two games against Vietnam and Myanmar.
All four goals were made by the feet, none came off headers, and all four goals were made by different players: Paul Mulders, Chieffy Caligdong, Phil Younghusband and Anghel Guirado. Of the four goals, three were made from inside the box, with only Paul Mulder’s goal made from the edge off the box from a great cross by Patrick Reichelt. This was the easiest of the goals made by the Azkals in the Quarterfinals, with the other three being much more difficult. Paul Mulder’s goal was also the only one made with the right foot, with the other three goals made from inside the box made with the left foot.
This means the defense did well in covering the strong side of most of the players, forcing them to take the more difficult shot with the weaker foot. Unfortunately for them, Chieffy is naturally left-footed, while Phil Younghusband and Anghel Guirado proved that they are truly ambidextrous, being able to control and kick that ball with their weaker foot as well as their stronger foot.
Furthermore, the three goals were slotted in on the far side of the post, again making the shot more difficult as one had to aim for the farther target. Again the defense did well in covering the near post, forcing the players to make the harder shot. But again our players were just good enough to make the more difficult shots.
The goals clearly show that on one end, individual defense in the Suzuki Cup is excellent, often forcing our players to take the hardest shots possible. But then our players have now enough quality to be able to rise to the occassion, and turn those hard shots into goals. The fact that four different players scored those goals show that we don’t rely only on certain players for our finishing, there are a number of them that can do the job effectively, a big plus for the Azkals on offense.
‘Azkals vs. Singapore
I think that Singapore is the best semi-final draw we could get at the moment, and I am glad we got it. This year we beat this Singapore team not just once, but twice, with an aggregate score of 3-0. Note also that they weren’t able to score against us in those two games. Of course, those were just International Friendly games, and not in a major tournament like where we are in now.
However, still a big morale booster for the Philippines, considering that the other option, Malaysia, proved the tougher opponent for us. They held us to a one-all Draw at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum, and then a nil-nil Draw on their home turf.
To progress to the Finals, the Azkals need to do a three things: First, it must win at our home game. Anything less I feel like a Draw or a Loss would be utter disaster for the teams’ chances of progressing. Second, it must win as many goals as possible in anticipation of a tie-break. The opposing side will be playing all-out also, hence I expect the outcome to be quite close.
Third, it is important for the Azkals to have a CLEAN SHEET at home against the Lions. If the Lions scores, then they would have the advantage in a tie-break since away goals are worth two goals in tie-break situations. So even if the Azkals win, if the Lions scores at Rizal pressure will on to the Azkals to not only score more goals, but also to score on our away game against them in Singapore.
My expectations: Both teams winning their home games, with the Azkals progressing to the Finals due to superior goal difference.