Azkals 2012 Full-Year Statistics

[See the TERMINOLOGY section at the bottom of the page for words or phrases marked with an asterisk (*) after it]

The Azkals’ exit from the Suzuki Cup Finals also signal the official end of the Azkals’ 2012 season, as there are no more official FIFA International “A” games for the rest of December 2012. Time to take stock and see what the Azkals have achieved so far for the entire year of 2012, and also take a look at some of their stats.

Below are some of the stats I have gathered for the Azkals games from January to December 2012. These stats cover only the FIFA-sanctioned Tournament Games and International Friendlies, and does not cover international or local exhibition or practice matches.

They are also definitely not complete, as these are only gathered from news accounts, internet columns, etc. as I followed the team thru the season. I am still hoping that the Azkals release an official summary of the season, with more accurate official statistics, so we can study their performance better.

‘Tournaments and Games’
The Azkals played in 3 tournaments in 2012: The AFC Challenge Cup, the Peace Cup, and last but not the least the Suzuki Cup. Here are the number of games they played for each tournament, and the countries they went up against:
– AFC Challenge Cup, 5 away games in Nepal against North Korea, India, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Palestine
– Peace Cup, 3 home games in Manila against Guam, Macau and Taiwan
– Suzuki Cup, 5 games total (4 away games in Thailand and Singapore, and 1 home game in Manila) against Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Singapore

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2012 AFF Suzuki Cup Azkals Stint Reflections

As the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup ends, it is time to reflect on the Azkals’ stint in the most prestigious regional tournament in South East Asia. One could say that the Suzuki Cup is truly the “World Cup” of South East Asia as each major member country in the region really gets involved in the tournment. It is also the most competitive tournament the Azkals have played in throughout the year, more prestigious than the Peace Cup or the AFC Challenge Cup.

Coming into the tournament, the Azkals had a fantastic preparation in terms of the number of games played. They played a total of sixteen International FIFA “A” games, and this is not counting the non-FIFA “A” games they played against like the Football Clubs in the Middle East. Its true, the team’s composition tend to vary, but I feel that the sheer number of games (including practices) enabled the players to have good familiarity with each other.

In contrast, I don’t think any of the other teams had quite as many games within the year to prepare for the tournament. Certainly not Singapore, or Thailand, who played in a lot less FIFA “A” games this year. True, the Singaporeans and Thais play a lot against each other in their local leagues, but so do the Azkals in the United Football League.

‘Tournament Accomplishments’
The Azkals finished fourth overall out of ten countries in the tournament. For the first time in its history, it also qualified for the second straight tournament in the Semi-Finals. This is quite a solid accomplishment, especially in the light of the team’s performance against the eventual champion of the region, Singapore.

In the two Semi-Finals games against Singapore, the Philippines drew once, and lost once. They drew a clean sheet against Singapore in the first game, while losing only by a single goal in the second game. Even more impressive is our overall performance against the 2012 Suzuki Cup Champion throughout the year, below of which is the summary of their performance:
– Four games in total, broken down to two International Friendlies and two Semi-Finals games in the Suzuki Cup
– We won twice, drew them once, and lost once
– Aggregate score over four games is 3-1, with us giving them a clean sheet in three out of four games.

The tournament also exposed the team’s strengths, and glaring weaknesses. Here are my opinion of those regarding the team.

‘The Good News – Defense’
The Azkals best quality is definitely its defense. Over five games, we can summarize our defense using the following points:
– Conceded only two goals in five games
– Maintained a clean sheet in three out of the five games
– Lost by no more than one goal difference (2-1) to Thailand

Our Backline of Rob Gier, Juani Guirado, Ray Jonsson, Carli De Murga and Dennis Cagara are the best players of the team compared to the rest of South East Asia. Special mention to our Defensive Midfielders in Jerry Lucena and Jason De Jong, who all have had their moments in the tournament on defense.
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My 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup Diary Part One

Quarterfinals Day One: Saturday, November 24, 2012
* Vietnam Draws with Myanmar, 1-1
– Vietnam leads at the half, 1-0, scoring in the 32nd minute off Cross from a Throw In that was headed in.
– Not impressed with Vietnam, they definitely are not as quick and accurate with their passing as, say, Bahrain, or Kuwait. They are dangerous as they have good mid-range shots, accurate with their Crosses, and are good in the air. But I think our chances against them are AT LEAST EVEN, maybe a little bit more …
– Myanmar equalizes in the 54th minute, 1-all. Myanmar relying mostly on long balls, and got lucky when one went thru forcing Vietnam to foul their Striker in the Penalty Box, resulting in a goal off a Penalty Kick.
– Despite their lack of finesse, Myanmar is and will be dangerous. Bayan na kasi ang pinaglalabanan dito …
– Shocking result, as Vietnam was heavily favored to win over Myanmar.
– Unimpressive game by Vietnam in the 2nd half, with Myanmar getting the more dangerous chances: A dangerous Free Kick at the top of the box, and a dangerous one-on-one with the Goalkeeper. Vietnam just got lucky.
– If they play like this against the Azkals on Tuesday, we WILL beat them, NO DOUBT about it. But I don’t think they will, because I am sure their country will be on their asses to play better. But I still hope they will play shitty like this, so we can hand their asses all the way back to Ho Chi Minh City.
– With this result, it makes the games of both countries against us even more critical, so prepare for more intense games ahead for the Azkals ….

Quarterfinals Day Two: Sunday, November 25, 2012
* Indonesia Draws with Laos, 1-1
– Surprise scoreline at 1-all at Half Time, as Laos pulled ahead after a stupid challenge by the Indonesian Goalkeeper on a breaking Laos player, resulting in a Penalty Kick and a goal.
– The Indo Goalkeeper was sent off on a Red Card, reducing the Merah Puhti to 10 men. However, a couple of minutes later, a Laotian player was also sent off with a Red Card after a nasty challenge, making both teams even. Indonesia later scored off a header from a Corner Kick.
– Sloppy and inconsistent play by Indonesia in the 2nd half, allowing Laos more dangerous attempts which eventually resulted in a goal. Indonesia then sort of woke up, stepped up their attack and scored off a rebound when the Laotian Goalkeeper spilled the ball.
– It is bothersome to watch Indonesia, who seems to be sleeping most of the game, allowing Laos to take the lead in goals both times, and then waking up just enough to even the score, but not doing enough to take the lead and win the game. The team has serious, serious issues, they have the talent to win but just did not use it. Its as if they played very lazily in this game.

* Singapore Beats Malaysia, 2-0
– Surprising result at half time, with Singapore leading 2-0. Malaysia actually looked the sharper side with their numerous forays into the Singapore Box. However, a lucky long ball from the left flank to the Center, then a good first touch by Sharul Ishak followed by a good shot put Singapore up front.
– The next goal came from a Free Kick from the Left Flank, which the Malay Goalkeeper tried to punch out but scuffed, causing the ball to go towards the Goal instead. Headed down by a Malaysian player, but a Sharul Ishak was there for the rebound and headed in a goal.
– Things are looking gloomy for Malaysia, as they have started shouting at each other, and with Aleksandr Duric likely coming in the 2nd half for Singapore …
– Well, Duric came in the 2nd half, and true to form, came out and extended Singapore’s lead to 3 off a header. Just poor defending on the part of Malaysia, leaving 2 or 3 Singapore players unmarked inside the box.
– Malaysia actually looked the better team technically, with nice, short passing in and around the box. But the finishing was just not there. Disaster for Malaysia, remember they are playing at home.

* Day Two Parting Shot
– Bad result for both of the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup Finalists Indonesia and Malaysia. Now, imagine if Singapore tops Group B. This is a team we beat not only once, but TWICE, on an aggregate score of 3-0. Not only did we beat them, but we BLANKED them on both games, too. Of course, the Azkals still need to beat Vietnam and Myanmar, but if we do, and the above scenario occurs, things could turn out very well for the Azkals.
– Remember though that Malaysia also had a disastrous first game in the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup, losing to Indonesia 5-1 before going out to win the tournament. So they could still come back, but perhaps highly unlikely this time around.

Quarterfinals Day Three: Tuesday, November 27, 2012
* Thailand Routs Myanmar, 4-0
– Thailand scored only one goal at the half, while scoring three goals in the second half.
– Clearasil Dangda scored a Hat Trick, showing that he is, indeed, the Best Striker in South East Asia right now, much better than even our Phil Younghusband.
– Just exquisite passing by Thailand. What makes their passing so impressive, is that not only are they accurate, they are also airborne.
– With Airborne passes, the ball travels much faster, and is harder to block as you can’t use your hands. They are also much harder to do accurately, and yet Thailand does them accurately and consistently.
– I think Myanmar is very dangerous for the Philippines, because they play good defense. Thailand had to wait for them to get tired in the second half before the rest of the goals came in. On offense, Myanmar has a very good, lightning fast top quality Striker in Kyi Lin, and he is very dangerous, especially early in the game when he is not tired yet, and his speed is still at full throttle.
– He has good build, and a great passer, too, so he is the complete package. A bit short at only 5’5″, but still with a lot of quality.
– If our aging Backline loses concentration for even just a few seconds, he will score because of his speed and strength. Maybe its time to bring in Jeffrey Christiaens in the Backline for the Myanmar game, just to have somebody to match Kyi Lin’s quickness.
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Azkals vs. Singapore Lions, December 12, 2012

December 12, 2012 at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore for the Azkals’ second Semi-Finals game in the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup against the Singapore Lions: The Azkals lost to the Lions, 1-0.

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

‘Game Observations’
In the early minutes of the first half, Singapore went all out against the Azkals, pressing very high and constantly putting pressure on where the ball is and disrupting the passing lanes. This put the Azkals on the backheel until the Lions finally scored that goal. After that, the Lions visibly relaxed, and the Azkals started getting their passing game together. The Lions I think were just trying to preserve their strength so they can last the whole game.

This continued until the second half, but by the 60th minute it was obvious to me that the Lions were dead-tired, mainly probably because of their effort in the first 20 minutes of the game. They were running around feeling they had lead on their legs, and this was the main reason they missed two great chances in our box in the second half. Tired legs meant sloppy first touch and ball-handling, causing them to make silly mistakes and make what should’ve been easy goals for them.

To their credit, despite their fatigue they still played their hearts out on defense. The Azkals maintained majority possession in the second half, with the ball mostly on the Singapore side of the pitch, causing a lot of tension and anticipation for the fans of both teams. But the Singapore defense was just good enough to constantly deny the Azkals any real good chance at the goal.
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Azkals vs. Singapore Lions, December 8, 2012

December 8, 2012 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila, Philippiines for the Azkals’ first Semi-Finals game in the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup against the Singapore Lions: The Azkals drew with the Lions, 0-0.

Active Azkals Players:
(Goalkeeper) – Ed Sacapano
(Defenders) – Carli De Murga, Rob Gier, Juani Guirado, Dennis Cagara
(Midfielders) – James Younghusband, Paul Mulders, Jason De Jong, Patrick Reichelt
(Forwards) – Anghel Guirado, Phil Younghusband
(Substitutes) – Marwin Angeles, Chieffy Caligdong, Jeffrey Christiaens

‘Game Observations’
An incredibly ugly game for the Azkals in the first half, with the team unable to move forward and make good Shots on Target. Worst still was that the Lions clearly had the more dangerous chances, with only the heroics of Ed Sacapano keeping the Azkals in the game. Its a perplexing game by the Azkals, and I suspect that the pressure of finally having a home game finally got to them. That, and the fact that Singapore played with more intensity. They wanted the game more, and also managed to keep their focus on the game.

Much better second half for the Azkals, with the team finally showing their usual ground and attacking game. Jason De Jong going out and Marwin Angeles coming in also helped in changing the Azkals’ game for the better. However, the finishing was not there, resulting in a disappointing Draw on the home turf.

I also noticed that the Lions also took advantage of the Azkals’ weakness in Set Pieces. The Azkals very rarely score a goal off a Set Piece, while Singapore already had done so twice in this tournament, with a couple more dangerously threatening the Goalkeepers. So everytime an Azkal tries to move forward around the top and flanks of the box, they would rather bang him up and risk getting a Free Kick rather than have the Azkal get away. And it paid off, with only one Free Kick out of three or four dangerously coming close to the goal. Expect the Lions to continue to exploit this weakness. The Azkals, on the other hand, should try to make their Set Pieces count more, as the Lions will continue giving this to them.
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2012 Suzuki Cup Quarter-Finals Round Reflections

‘Country Round-Ups’
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.
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Azkals vs. Myanmar White Angels, November 30, 2012

November 30, 2012 at the Supachalasai Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand for the Azkals’ third Quarterfinals game in the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup against the Myanmar White Angels: The Azkals beat the White Angels, 2-0.

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

‘Game Observations’
Credit the White Angels for playing their hearts out and making a great game out of this one. The game was actually a lot closer than it looks, with the opening goal by the Azkals coming in only in the second half, and the insurance goal coming in late in stoppage time. Myanmar played fantastic defense against our short game, disrupting your attacks in the final third of the pitch again and again.

They also contained our attackers well, often putting two or three people on Azkals making their individual runs on the middle and in the flanks. Despite the help out defense, they were still quick enough to recover when the pass is made to another player. Just a lot of heart and effort for any team to be able to do that most of the game. As a result, our two goals have had to come off long balls, punctuated by individual brilliance.

Our defense was a little bit porous for my taste, with Myanmar getting a few good shots on our goal which, were they done by players with a little bit more quality, would’ve resulted in a goal or so. Two of their headers from inside the box came close, just going a little wide off the posts, and another two of their crosses were luckily plucked by Ed Sacapano before the receiving players got to it. Maybe it’s because of the tired, aging legs after playing three games in nine days, or the team was just a little complacent, but not really the best performance by the Backline.
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