‘Azkals Men of the Series’
In two games against a team ranked sixty seven notches above us in the FIFA World Football Rankings (as of July 2011), our opponent Kuwait managed to score five goals against us, while we could only managed one goal against them. I think it is only apt that the players that shone the most are the ones with the best credentials on paper: The second Division Bundesliga player Stephan Schrock, and the third-string Goalkeeper of Fulham in the English Premiere League, Neil Etheridge.
Schrock scored the only goal for the Azkals in the series, a fantastic 25-yard goal that caught the Kuwaiti Goalkeeper by surprise and slipped thru. That goal was important, as it gave the Azkals fans something positive to cheer about the Azkals. Instead of thinking, “wow, that Kuwaiti team was awesome”, people can think, “wow, did you see that goal by Schrock?” The Rizal Memorial Stadium erupted when that shot went thru.
Neil Etheridge conceded a total of five goals in the series, but he had stopped a lot more. And we’re not talking here about shot-straight-to-the-goalkeeper saves, but like jump-and-strech-your-soul-for-the-love-of-God saves. If the Goalkeeper had been made of lesser stuff, that Kuwaiti goal score would’ve been easily double what it is now. Had the 6’3″ Neil had been born and raised in the Philippines, he likely would’ve been one hell of a Forward in local Basketball, with his good height (by Philippine standards, anyway), fantastic reflexes and excellent decision-making. But thank God he is in Football. Thank God For Neil Etheridge In Football (TGFNEIF).
I felt we lost that series not because of our lack of defense, but due to our lack of ability to score goals. The Goalkeeper is about as best as you can realistically get, the guy plays in the EPL for God’s sake, so no complaints there. Yes, the defense could’ve been a little bit better, but the problem was they were just overwhelmed by too many shots on target from the opposing team.
“The best defense is a good offense”, and that quote applies best to this game. If we had scored 1-2 more goals in this series, then I felt that would’ve changed the complexion of the game. That would’ve made the Kuwaitis less confident, and less aggressive with their attacks, making them a little bit more defensive, a little bit more cautious, knowing that at any time in the game, we could go out and score against them so they need to try harder on defense. With them holding a bit back, then that would’ve put less pressure on our defense, with less shots on target from their side.