U23 Azkals 2011 SEAG Stint Reflections

The U23 Azkals’ stint in the South East Asian Games (SEAG) has been a complete and utter disaster. I will not mince any other word to describe it. We got a huge break by ending up in the “Group of Hope”, so-called by Weiss because most of the teams there are NOT the South East Asian (SEA) superpowers, hence the expectation for us to perhaps get into the medal tally. INSTEAD, we ended up DEAD LAST in an “easy” division. If that is not a disaster, I don’t know what is. If we got beaten this badly against the “Group of Hope”, imagine what would’ve happened to us if we were in the “Group of Death”.

We played five games, lost four times and won only once. And that lone win was due to a miracle, out of sheer luck more than anything else. We scored ONLY SIX GOALS in five matches for a paltry average of only 1.2 goals per game. In contrast, we CONCEDED FOURTEEN GOAL in five matches, giving up an average of 2.8 or almost three goals per game. Only three U23 Azkals scored goals in this stint: Manny Ott with two goals, OJ Porteria with one, and Joshua Beloya with three.

I don’t buy the crap that the team was “unprepared” and only had a month’s worth of practice. As far as I know, this team played a couple of games against local UFL teams, even winning one over Phoenix Air Force FC. They even went to Japan for some training, and didn’t do too badly there: They didn’t get blown off by large margins, and even drawing and winning some. The team just really sucked, in terms of the coaching, training and philosophy.
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U23 Azkals SEAG Stint: Last Two Disastrous Games

‘U23 Myanmar Massacres the U23 Azkals, 5-0’
Myanmar did not take chances with us this time around. After that miracle win by us over Laos, they made sure of a win by burying us with goals. They had that “overkill” instinct, they kept attacking all throughout the game, and made sure they had an insurmountable margin at the end of the game.

The game actually looked pretty even, its not as if they dominated possession against us and we couldn’t get good shots against them. We did get our fair share of possession and attempts on goal. In the end, though, Myanmar just had a little more class, a little bit more individual and team skill than we do. They were more “polished” with their Football.

However, that polish and maturity is highly suspect. I don’t trust Myanmar because of that dictatorial regime of theirs. They are used to cheating and getting their way, so I won’t be surprised if some of these players are overaged. If they really are a lot better than us, then that would’ve shown in their games against our Senior team. But that has not been the case, they haven’t been winning against the senior Azkals, just drawing a lot.
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U23 Azkals 2011 SEAG Stint: Win Over Laos

Another game, another near disaster, were it not for a miracle. Yes, it was a mainly miracle when player number 11 wins the game in dramatic fashion on 11.11.11.

There are couple of reasons why we won this game: First is the determination of the players to never give up. They were down to ten men, with the Laotians continually attacking again and again, and yet they dug down deep into themselves to try to come up with a win. It was a character revealing game for the team;

Second, the Laotians clearly sort of winded down in the last 15 minutes of the match. Overall, they definitely had the better game looking menacing on our left flank (as our two previous opponents did), but they did one better by also raiding our right flank. And in the second half, they capped the insult by raiding right down the middle of our defense. However, all of this suddenly stopped in the last 15 minutes of the game. They just mistakenly thought the game was over 15 minutes ahead of time.

Perhaps it was due to fatigue (both mental or physical), or perhaps they just became complacent, thinking that the game was won. Whatever it was, it was clear that their number of attacks went down in that end game, while the U23 Azkals started to dominate the number of shots on goal. It was also obvious that they were starting to focus more on delaying the game rather than going for another goal to seal the win. And they paid dearly for it. Charge it to inexperience, with them eventually losing what was a won game.

And third, it was simply a miracle. Two perfect plays, all within the last five minutes of the game, with the lucky number 11 so conspicuous in both plays on a lucky day.
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U23 Azkals 2011 SEAG Stint: First Two Disastrous Games

‘U23 Azkals Lose to Vietnam, 3-1’
Although the goal difference was not more than three goals as per my expectations, it was still a very painful game to watch. The Vietnamese were virtually just TOYING against the U23 Azkals, especially in the second half, when they were behind by a goal. Individually they were just so impressive with their ballhandling. We couldn’t dispossess them enough, and they consistently dispossessed us. As a team, the way they built up and launched their attacks thru excellent passing, they were simply way better than our team. The way they displayed their class was just jaw droppingly impressive.

The only reason the score was close, was due to a number of reasons: First would be the relative inexperience of the Vietnamese with their final ball, missing some shots that would’ve otherwise been sure goals. Second would be THANK GOD FOR ROLAND MUELLER. He makes one forget Neil Etheridge, as in, “Neil Etheridge who?” Despite the fact that he conceded three goals in the game, he saved more. A LOT MORE. And they were difficult, fantastic saves, really near goals were it not for the Goalkeeper. Had Mueller been anything less, we would’ve been buried deep in goals.

Third would be the hustle of defense of our backline. They did have more lapses than saves, but those interceptions and dispossessions were what otherwise would’ve been sure goals. The only problem was there was just too many good attempts on the net and they just couldn’t keep them all out. Which goes to show the folly of parking the bus against such a good team. And fourth, we were just lucky, and Vietnam was just unlucky with their shots.
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