Azkals vs. Myanmar White Angels, February 6, 2013

February 6, 2013 at the Thuwanna Youth Training Center Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar for the Azkals’ first International Friendly match for 2013: The Azkals win over the White Angels, 1-0.

Active Azkals Players:
(Goalkeeper) – Neil Etheridge
(Defenders) – Rob Gier, Jason De Jong, Manny Ott, Jeffrey Christiaens
(Midfielders) – Chris Greatwich, Chieffy Caligdong, Patrick Reichelt, Marwin Angeles
(Forwards) – OJ Porteria, Phil Younghusband
(Substitutes) – Ian Araneta, Marvin Angeles

‘Game Observations’
Both teams had good chances in the first half, but clearly Myanmar had more and the better chances. Better still was the way they were able to string two-three passes inside our box making for very dangerous attempts. There was one cross from the White Angels which left one player on a one-on-one situation with Neil. He missed the shot mainly because of his inexperience, if we had been against a better team that would’ve been a goal right there.

We had our chances on offense, but it was more due to individual runs rather than good teamplay. Myanmar was exploiting the Azkals Right Flank, that was where their best Striker Kyaw Kow Kow was, and where Manny Ott was trying to play Right Back but was not doing a very good job at it on Defense.

You would think the Azkals would be able to make the necessary adjustments by the second half, but things got even worst for us. They dominated possession even more, and even had better attempts while frolicking in the box. Neil Etheridge had to make two important and LUCKY saves in that half, truly last minute saves that would’ve been likely been goals had it not been for his English Premiere League quality. The Azkals were in deep, deep trouble until OJ Porteria made that lucky goal late in the second half, which effectively knocked the wind out of the inexperienced Myanmar team. Their offense were never the same after that.

The Azkals problems on offense were still the same up to now: Poor team play into the final third. We can bring that ball forward, if not thru good passing, then thru individual runs like in this game. But time and again our crosses are simply, S-H-I-T. OJ took the only sensible shot based on our lack of quality team play in the final third, and that was a long range shot a couple of yards beyond the box.

‘Individual Performances’
Chieffy Caligdong had some good runs and crosses in the first half, but noticeably disappeared in the second half. Same with Patrick Reichelt. Manny Ott was a big bust as Right Back, he just doesn’t have the quality to safely patrol the flank he is assigned to. It is possible he will eventually learn to, like what happened with Jeffrey Christiaens, a transplanted Midfielder who was very solid on defense in the Left Flank, forcing Myanmar to pick on Manny Ott on the other side.

As for OJ Porteria, 18 years old, and already with his SECOND goal for the Azkals. He was one of the bright spots for the Azkals all throughout the game until he finally landed that goal. What’s more is the fact that OJ took the exact type of shot which I felt was missing from the Azkals’ arsenal, which is a long or mid range shot. The Azkals keep trying to land those largely ineffective Crosses, and has become predictable: Just defend against the Crosses, and they would be fine, which was what happened, until OJ took apart their plans with that unexpected shot. He will be marked from hereon, but I have complete trust in him as while he has good range with his shot, he is also an exceptional ballhandler and passer.

Rob Gier again was severely tested in this match, making some fine, last minute saves. I am worried how long his aging legs will hold under such types of pressure. He would’ve been the Man of the Match for the Azkals, were it not for Neil Etheridge’s exceptional performance. His long legs was responsible for kicking out on one of his saves, hence I doubt if Mueller or Sacapano would’ve been able to do the same. He never made a mistake, catching all of the balls sent his way. He was as much responsible for this victory as OJ was.

Another shitty game for Phil Younghusband. I am beginning to think PYH is determined to play mediocrely for Weiss from hereon, after that intentional snub on him last year. His numbers have never been the same again. True, he was well marked in this match, but he has ALWAYS been well marked in any match, and that has not kept him from winning the Golden Boot Award in the 2012 Challenge Cup. This time its different, the fire or motivation is not there, perhaps out of spite. The stats don’t lie: Before his benching, PYH was averaging 2 games between goals. After his benching, he is now only making 4 games between goals.

‘Parting Shot’
Terrible, terrible game for the Azkals up until that goal by OJ, outplayed by what is basically Myanmar’s U23 Youth team. They lost mainly because of their inexperience and basically were just unlucky with their finishing. Though they lost at home, can point to their better quality on offense and better team play.

I felt the terrible performance is a reflection of the turmoil the PFF and the Azkals are into: First, the PFF insults Weiss by giving him only a 6-month contract; Then Weiss refuses to sign the contract, hence we are now in the situation where he is coaching without a formal contract yet. With only 1 1/2 months to go before the Challenge Cup, the Azkals truly are in deep trouble. Our best players will be there, but it seems we will be again relying on individual performance to try to win games.

This game augurs bad for the Azkals preparation for the Challenge Cup, we will again be on pins and needles come that tournament. The PFF and the Azkals better get their act together real soon …

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