Azkals vs. Pakistan Shaheens, October 15, 2013

October 15, 2013 at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod, Philippines for the Azkals’ final game in the 2013 Peace Cup, this one against Pakistan: The Azkals win over the Shaheens, 3-1, thereby winning the Peace Cup for the 2nd year in a row.

‘Active Azkals Players’
(Goalkeeper) – Neil Etheridge
(Defenders) – Rob Gier, Jeffrey Christiaens, Juani Guirado, Jerry Barbaso
(Midfielders) – Chris Greatwich, Jerry Lucena, Misagh Bahadoran, James Younghusband
(Forwards) – Stephan Schrock, Patrick Reichelt
(Substitutes) – Anghel Guirado, OJ Porteria, Mark Hartmann, Phil Younghusband

‘Game Summary’
Pakistan showed some nifty passing plays, with one eventually resulting in the opening goal. Somebody from the right flicks a pass to the middle, who after 1 or 2 touches then makes a thru ball thru several defenders leaving the receiving player only to deal with Jerry Barbaso and Neil Etheridge. A fake to the left, switched to right and a volley resulting in the goal.

The Azkals dominate possession and attempts, though, and was finally rewarded with the equalizer just before the half-time whistle. Stephan Schrock thru individual brilliance brought the ball to the right side of the opponent’s box, and all three defenders were then hesitant to challenge him, afraid of committing a foul that will result in a Penalty Kick. This gives Schrock time to wait for his teammates which enabled Patrick Reichelt to charge thru the middle and volleying a pass by Schrock to him.

In the second half, the Azkals again dominated possession. Anghel Guirado sends a cross from the right into the box where Reichelt heads it into the net. The Goalkeeper deflects the ball back into Reichelt, who then heads it again into the direction of the net, this time landing on Chris Greatwich’s feet on the right side who then half volleys it into the net from close range, giving the Azkals the lead.

Schrock’s game long brilliance was finally rewarded with a goal when Reichelt managed to evade a defender on our side of the pitch and then sprinted down the right side before making a cross which found Schrock inside the box who was rushing in the middle. With Schrock’s one touch ability and ball control, the three defenders had absolutely no chance of stopping it, resulting in the last goal of the game.

‘Game Analysis’
The Pakistanis definitely has QUALITY, as shown by a couple of one-touch passing plays that penetrated our defense during the opening minutes. One of their players even made a full volley from near the middle of pitch which forced Neil Etheridge to make a diving save. There were also 1 or 2 more instances where they showed their one on one skills inside our box resulting in shots on target.

But for the life of me I can’t understand why they allowed the Azkals too much time on the ball. This gave the Azkals a LOT of momentum in the game, so much so that the Azkals didn’t even pull back to park the bus even after they scored the go-ahead goal, and continued on their attack. On the other hand, the Pakistanis found it hard to overcome the Azkal’s momentum and gain one on their own.

The Azkals were less efficient, but they had too many chances, coupled with their sheer determination that just enabled them to find those goals. And the combination of Reichelt and Schrock up front really worked wonders for the team. “Super Schrock” with his speed and skills complimented Reichelt’s bulldog determination and nose for the ball very well. Schrock would later quip in the interview that it took him and Reichelt to replace one Phil Younghusband, who had a calf injury and was a victim of food poisoning just a couple of days ago.

Credit the Pakistanis though for being generally good sports. They did a little bit of time-wasting near the end of the second half, and had one or two rough plays, but generally they were much better than some of the other teams we’ve faced so far. At the end of the game, there was no feeling of animosity on both sides, nobody got really roughed up, a very positive playing experience with this team overall.

‘Individual Performances’
Well, Schrock is Schrock, and I think everyone on the pitch including the Pakistanis were just so honored to having an active Bundesliga player out there on the pitch playing with them. His full range of abilities were on display: His pace, his ball handling and ball-winning skills to complement with his accurate crosses, free kicks and corner kicks. Lets not forget his one touch and passing skills. After a dozen or so minutes the Pakistanis were so intimidated by him that when he finally brought that ball to their box, they all seemed so scared of touching him, knowing what he can do. And great to see him finally score another goal for the Azkals.

They did try double or triple teaming him, but credit his other teammates who stepped up their game and help keep the pressure off Schrock. In particular would be Misagh Bahadoran, who displayed some brilliant runs and ball-handling skills enough for the Pakistanis to think, “hey, we better watch this guy, too”. Misagh did not score a goal or make an assist, but his individual contributions stretched that Pakistani goal enough for his other teammates to capitalize.

And of course Patrick Reichelt. Notice that in all of the 3 goals, Reichelt figured prominently, scoring the first one, then assisting on the 2nd and 3rd. Patrick has pace, and knows to position himself in the box at the right place and at the right time. Aside from his passing and ballhandling skills, he also is very persistent and determined on the attack.

Weiss initially made only one change from the last game in the backline, and that was the entry of the reliable Juani Guirado for Jason De Jong. After Jerry Barbaso conceded his 2nd goal in as many games, he was subbed out by Weiss, with James Younghusband taking his place at Right Back. Not entirely Jerry’s fault for those goals, but doesn’t bode well for his career with the Azkals, either.

The Azkals don’t concede anymore goals after that, and it might be awhile before we see Jerry play for the Azkals again, while we might see JYH play more in the backline for the team. JYH does have the height, work rate and heads up play to make a decent Right Back, and with an aging backline (Juani Guirado and Rob Gier are in their mid-30s already), the Azkals need him a lot more there than in the midfield.

‘Hans Weiss’
I am not a big fan of Weiss, my model and vision of the Azkals is that of like Thailand, a team with great one touch passing plays and thru balls enabling them to puncture no matter how determined enemy defenses are, and in his 3 years with the Azkals, he has not been able to mold the Azkals into that kind of a team.

But one thing about Weiss is that he always find ways for the team to win. From the 2012 Challenge Cup, to the 2013 Challenge Cup qualifiers and now to this tournament, he always is able to pull a rabbit out of his hat whenever his back is against the wall and make changes just enough for the team to win. The mature and experienced Juani Guirado and James Younghusband in the backline and his two fellow Germans up front, and the goals pile in.

I still want a coach that will really raise the level of the Azkal’s games higher, but as long as he is able to keep the team winning, then I guess we have to stay with him.

‘Parting Shot’
Great, morale-boosting win for the Azkals against Pakistan whom we face for the very first time. It averted the disaster of ending up last in a tournament at home against teams ranked much lower than us in the FIFA rankings. Aside from the silverware, it also possibly allowed the Philippines to be number one in South East Asia in Football in the FIFA rankings for the month of October 2013, something which we have been unable to do in a long, long time, perhaps this would even be the first time in our Football history.

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