Azkals vs. Singapore Lions, November 15, 2012

November 15, 2012 at the CCSC Football Field in Cebu City, Philippines for the Azkals’ International Friendly Game against the Singapore Lions: The Azkals beat the Lions, 1-0.

Active Azkals Players:
(Goalkeeper) – Ed Sacapano
(Defenders) – Ray Jonsson, Rob Gier, Juani Guirado, Dennis Christiaens
(Midfielders) – Jason De Jong, Chieffy Caligdong, Demitrius Omphroy, Chris Greatwich
(Forwards) – Patrick Reichelt, Dennis Wolf
(Substitutes) – Phil Younghusband, James Younghusband, Marwin Angeles, Joshua Beloya, Ian Araneta

‘Singapore Lions’
Singapore definitely came to play and try to win this match. Instead of just trying to hold possession and ending up with lackadaisical attacks in the final third of the pitch like in our previous game against them, this time they were very aggressive. Singapore relied more on their finesse, with pinpoint passing for raids into our box, and accurate shots, either headers or mid-range shots from inside or outside the Penalty area.

What amazed me about this Singapore team are those mid-range shots. Whether if it is off Set Pieces, or half-volleys from outside the box, almost all of them were on target. Its one thing our local Football players lack, you don’t see a lot of those in the UFL, or even with the Azkals. The stats speak for itself: 19 Shots on Goal for them, 13 on Target.

About the only Philippine player I know who can do that consistently is Mark Hartmann, and it looked Singapore had a lot Mark Hartmanns out there on their team.
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Azkals October 2012 Middle East Tour Reflections

‘The Bahrain, Kuwaiti National Teams and the Azkals’
Between the game against Bahrain and Kuwait, I think we learned much more playing against the more formidable Kuwaiti squad. They effectively exposed our team’s weaknesses, and it gave us something to work on for the more important games in the coming Suzuki Cup.

Bahrain had speed and endurance, but the Kuwaitis also had that, and more: Their Passing Precision. That combination of Speed and Passing Precision allowed them to initially render the Azkals’ defense porous. I have not seen such combination with any of the South East Asian teams, usually they either have one, or the other. Like Malaysia, for example. They play an up-tempo type of game, but the precision of their passing is not as precise.

On the other end of the spectrum, Singapore plays a mean passing game, but they play at a much slower speed, rendering them to be not as effective in terms of breaking down their opponent’s defense.

Despite the Azkals’ defense being initially exposed against Kuwait, credit the team for finding the tactical solutions and personnel to effectively deal with the Kuwaitis’ speed and passing. This will be valuable lesson in time for the coming Suzuki Cup.

On offense, the Azkals still lack the qualities that enable them to compete with teams like Kuwait, though. For one, we do not have the speed and passing precision that will allow us to penetrate our opponent’s defense. And another is that we don’t have medium range precision shooters that can shoot quickly, accurately and with power from just outside the box.
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Azkals vs. Kuwait Al-Azraq, October 16, 2012

October 16, 2012 at the Kuwait Stadium in Kuwait City, Kuwait for the Azkals’ International Friendly Game against the Kuwaiti Al-Azraq (The Blue): Kuwait beat the Azkals, 2-1.

Active Azkals Players:
(Goalkeeper) – Neil Etheridge
(Defenders) – Ray Jonsson, Rob Gier, Juani Guirado, Dennis Cagara
(Midfielders) – Jerry Lucena, Chieffy Caligdong, Patrick Reichelt, Marwin Angeles
(Forwards) – Paul Mulders, Dennis Wolf
(Substitutes) – Carli De Murga, Phil Younghusband, Anghel Guirado, Demitrius Omphroy

‘Game Summary’
This is a game of two halves. In the first half, the Kuwaitis played like gods out there on the Pitch. They had fantastic pace, but what makes them so good is their pinpoint-laser passing. Despite their pace, they are able to execute passes that are so precise it is able to break through even in between multiple defenders.

It is unbelievable, its almost as if they are mentally guiding the ball where to go exactly at which time. That passing enabled them to make passes thru even in between multiple defenders. The only reason why the score remained at 1-0 at the half in favor of the Kuwaitis was the individual efforts of Neil Etheridge.

We played much better in the second half, due to a number of reasons. First was that Weiss was able to make the adjustment of clogging the middle to keep the Kuwaitis from making the same kind of passes they were making before. Second was that Kuwait had pulled out a number of their starters out from the game. At the same time, we also made some substitutions, including one that dropped Mulders down into the Midfield instead of out front.

As a result, Kuwait’s vaunted passing game was suddenly not as impressive as it was anymore, with their plays being broken up more often than not as they launched their attacks. On the other end, the presence of Anghel, Carli and Phil seems to have energized the Azkals attack, and suddenly we were the more dangerous side. Despite that, though, it still turned out that we didn’t have the finishing to score more goals against this team, not at their level.
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Azkals vs. Bahrain Al-Ahmar, October 12, 2012

October 12, 2012 at the Al Muharraq Stadium in Manama, Bahrain for the Azkals’ International Friendly Game against Bahrain’s Al-Ahmar (The Reds): The Azkals hold a scoreless Draw with Bahrain, 0-0.

Active Azkals Players:
(Goalkeeper) – Roland Mueller
(Defenders) – Ray Jonsson, Rob Gier, Juani Guirado, Dennis Cagara
(Midfielders) – Jerry Lucena, Chieffy Caligdong, Patrick Reichelt, Marwin Angeles
(Forwards) – Paul Mulders, Dennis Wolf
(Substitutes) – Misagh Bahadoran, Jeffrey Christiaens, Matthey Uy, OJ Porteria

‘Bahrain National Team’
Bahrain is definitely a quality team, they are light years from the teams we played against in the Peace Cup. This is because first, they all have great individual skills. Overhead passes, ground passes, first touch, etc., they all make it look easy, until you start to realize that, hey, our Azkals are not as smooth with their first touch compared to these guys, even from long balls.

Second is speed. They are all quick and fast, and are able to execute their plays quickly. They definitely play a more up tempo game than ours. Third is aggressiveness. They press high, and are constantly going after the ball. Fourth is endurance. They are able to maintain their up tempo type of game and pressing of the ball almost all throughout the game, slacking off very little with their efforts.

‘Azkals Performance’
Despite the seeming advantages of the Bahrain team, credit the Azkals’ excellent team defense in holding off their attacks. Everytime the Al Ahmar tried to attack in the middle, they always ended up being dispossessioned or their attacks broken off in the final third of the Pitch. The Azkals showed exceptional defense in this game, and they managed to do it the whole game.
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Azkals vs. Singapore Lions, September 7, 2012

September 7, 2012 at the Jurong West Stadium in Singapore, for the Azkals’ International Friendly Game against the Singapore Lions: The Azkals win over the Singapore Lions, 2-0.

Starting XI: Goalkeeper – Neil Etheridge; Defenders – Jeffrey Christaens, Carli De Murga, Jason Sabio, Rob Gier; Midfielders – James Younghusband, Jerry Lucena, Stephan Schrock, Chieffy Caligdong; Forwards – Phil Younghusband, Paul Mulders

Substitutes: Jason De Jong, Patrick Reichelt, Dennis Wolf, Misagh Bahadoran, Marwin Angeles

‘Singapore Lions’
I like the way Singapore Lions play, great possession game, and great passing, very entertaining to watch. However, it is a prime example of maintaining possession too much, and not having enough creativity to actually score goals. Most European Coaches like this style because even if the team loses, they could just say, “hey, we maintained possession majority of the time” (as if that actually counts more than a goal in Football).

In the second half, seeing how their vaunted ground game was going nowhere, they tried using long balls, but kudos to our defensive backline for fending them off again and again. This game sort of showed that the Lions aren’t really much without their Olympic-level Sprinter “Import” Aleksandr Duric, and Duric is already in his forties, so one wonders how the Lions will fare in a post-Duric future soon.
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Azkals vs. Cambodia Angkor Warriors, September 5, 2012

September 5, 2012 at the Cambodia National Stadium in Phnom Penh, for the Azkals’ International Friendly Game against the Cambodia Angkor Warriors: The Azkals draw with the Angkor Warriors, 0-0.

Starting XI: Goalkeeper – Neil Etheridge; Defenders – Jeffrey Christaens, Carli De Murga, Jason Sabio, Rob Gier; Midfielders – James Younghusband, Jerry Lucena, Marwin Angeles, Chieffy Caligdong; Forwards – Phil Younghusband, Paul Mulders

Substitutes: Jason De Jong, Patrick Reichelt, Dennis Wolf, Anto Gonzales, Misagh Bahadoran, OJ Porteria

‘Game Summary’
Cambodia is ranked forty places lower than us, and they haven’t played a FIFA International game in 14 months, so this was supposed to be an “easy” game for us. In fact, it was supposed to be a good tuneup game before going against the tough Singapore National Team. And yet the Cambodians looked quite competitive out there, making some good runs in the first half, and some dangerous chances in the Second Half.

The Azkals looked out of sync, and partly that could be due to the poor condition of the pitch as per the TV Announcers. However, I am not buying that reason. They had at least half a dozen really good chances, but muffed their finishing each and every time.
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Azkals vs. Guam Matao, June 12, 2012

June 12, 2012 at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod, Philippines, for the Azkals Friendly game against Guam: The Azkals rout Guam, 3-0.

Starting XI: Goalkeeper – Neil Etheridge; Defenders – Dennis Cagara, Carli De Murga, Jason Sabio, Rob Gier; Midfielders – James Younghusband, Marwin Angeles, Anghel Guirado, Jerry Lucena; Forwards – Denis Wolf, Phil Younghusban

Substitutes: Misagh Bahadoran, Jason De Jong, Anto Gonzales, Jeffrey Christaens

‘Game Summary’
The Azkals had a great first half, scoring three goals. It took them only 8 minutes to score their first goal, and another 4 minutes to score the next one. I actually thought the Azkals would score a total of 4 goals at the end of the first half, but it seems they were in a “forgiving” mood in this game, hence you can see them sort of relax and hold back a little after that second goal.

Proof of this was the fact that they did not score the third goal until the 47th minute, at the end of the first half. I thought we would score another 2 or 3 more goals in the second half, but it was not to be. Not for the lack of trying, though, as there was a lot of good opportunities to do so for the Azkals. But they couldn’t, mainly because of the lack of finishing skills of some of them.
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