by Daryl Lagos
The Philippines build-up towards the AFF Suzuki Cup 2012 has reached one of it's 'Periodic Exams" battling Bahrain to a 0-0 Draw in Manama before slightly losing 2-1 to the home side Kuwait.
The Azkals did not entirely fielded the lineup who won the Philippine Peace Cup 2012 but did have the Younghusbands, Guirado Brothers, Lucena, Cagara, Jonsson, Mulders, Muller & Neil Etheridge for Kuwait which proved to be a handful for both middle eastern countries to just hammer away a win on the Philippines.
We are trying to get what we like to call in the music industry the "Final Mix" for our ultimate goal this year, the AFF Suzuki Cup 2012 out of the deep bench in the Azkals disposal.
The draw in Bahrain proved to be a substantial result against a team that used to be 44 in the world! GCC Champions & Arab Champions in 2011 and is always a force to reckon with in the Middle East & Asia.
Kuwait proved to be a step ahead exhibiting speed, stamina and fitness. Sitting at 112 world wide, Al-Asraq proved to be a bench mark for the country to break. The regular gulf champions has kept the Philippines from advancing in last year's world cup qualification.
The Azkals exhibited discipline and class throughout the field & game and even proving hard to crack easily on defense. The Philippines did not settle for an all defensive action without counter attacks or trying to set up a formation to get a win unlike our previous match in Kuwait.
I can see Angel Guirado, Dennis Wolf, Phil Younghusband in the Kuwait match battling with their defensive match ups to get on the score sheet, the Mid-Field was on war and our Goal Keepers in both matches were highly up to the challenge.
Roland Muller highlighted a great save from a Bahrain attack the could have been the most dangerous for the Azkals. Neil Etheridge was more than outstanding and produced one of the best goal keeping for the nationals I have seen so far, multiple saves from several attacks and what capped it off was a penalty effort saved from a Kuwaiti striker and yet again saving the rebound only seconds right after.
His loan to the pirates kept him sharp and focused. I once said to myself, Bristol Rovers has the entire Philippines guarding their goal now.
3 Stars and a Sun!
You can never take away anything from the team against these 2 countries. We even won a lot of respect and experience. OFWs in particular are ecstatic to see our team go head to head with the host countries, because for them it is not just football but playing for their pride, honor and recognition.
Many might not have seen this part of the pitch but the not only did our team came there, they saw the people who looked up to them and conquered the notion that one day we will be there to win a game and prove Filipinos are truly up to the global challenge in and out of the pitch.
I admire that people on Twitterverse that has already learned the importance of not only producing goals in match, its every little thing that should come together as an entire piece, an entire team.
Decisions are made by the coaches & management based on how they become to see it and people are starting to appreciate the bigger picture. Healthy and constructive arguments that results to deepening relationships between the supporters and football.
A lost or a draw cannot just dictate the massive improvements we have come upon till this date. We still lack some cohesion, but just a little bit of tweaking here and there we will get that engine running.
I am pleased with the Azkals experience in the Middle East!
by Daryl Lagos
Baptized by Fire & Ice, Indonesia has found a new rival in the north eastern part of their archipelago.
Indonesia traveled to Manila to meet the Philippines on a FIFA sanctioned friendly game that ended in a 2-2 Draw & 3 Red Cards.
The Philippines for the 1st time in their match against the Indonesians controlled possession all through out the game.
A slightly off beat 1st half for the Azkals who were trying to assemble an attack that can break the Indonesian defense was seen early.
Filipino-Danish Dennis Cagara who just flew in to join the squad was remarkable with his precision passes saw great chances for the Philippines to take an early lead.
The 1st half ended with no goals, but the 2nd half is where it all begun.
Philippines coach Weiss started fielding in the starters that saw Philip & James Younghusband, Neil Etheridge and Jerry Lucena come in for Wolf, Mulders, Angeles and GK Roland Muller.
In the 58' mark, Wanggai from a cross connected with a low header breaking the stand off 1-0 in favor of Indonesia. A minute later, James Younghusband would equalize following a determined interception of a ball that he clinically finished on a 1 on 1 against a very experienced Indonesian Goal Keeper.
A clearance by Indonesia was met by Carli's header only to bounce off finding a Garuda Star Striker Irfan Bachdim racing towards Neil Etheridge who tried to sweep the ball but only to see it slip off in between his legs finding the net the gave Indonesia the lead 2-1 in the 61st minute.
Rain fell as dramatic as ever, it tried to cool off the pressure but rather became the baptism of fire and ice. Misagh Bahadoran came in for Angel Guirado earlier was fouled on a possession, a complaining Chieffy Caligdong was a recipient of a hot headed Irfan that pushed the Azkals captain starting the confusion and Manny Ott got involved immediately.
Irfan continued pushing Chieffy Caligdong until Dennis Cagara from behind came in to push the Indonesian Idol back to knock it off (Face Me Style!)
The Referee pulled out 3 solid red cards that sent the Indonesian Idol Bachdim to an early after rain shower. Chieffy & Ott was off the pitch as well. The Philippines with 9 Men Vs 10 Indonesians scuffle back to reorganize the set piece as a free kick was underway.
Cagara made a precise kick for James Younghusband to head bounce pass it close enough to Phil that would make no mistake in volleying in the 2nd equalizer of the match.
The Philippines could have even won this game after Phil's well timed shot was critically saved by another Indonesian Idol Goalie Marcus. He then went down on the pitch as if in pain burning the critical 5 mins added for injury time.
The game ended in a draw 2-2.
The Philippines fought with heart all game but the cohesiveness of their play made things difficult at the end.
The Azkals had so much talent on the bench and coach needed to use the game as an experiment to bring out possible scenarios that could come in the future.
Some players might not be available during games and the team needed back up fire power that can be tapped in easily.
A glimpse of an upcoming Suzuki 2012 match was seen and a new rivalry is born out of it.
It started off in AFF Suzuki 2010 when Indonesia through their Uruguayan naturalized striker shot 2 goals that took the Philippines off the semi-finals.
The 2 national team shall meet again in this year's edition...the only difference is that the Azkals are now ranked 3rd in the entire region.
Stats Summary : Indonesia Vs The Philippines
Until the next Azkals' game, Supporters analyze and video scout the next opponent for the Philippines. a Former Asian Cup Champion in 1980, 10 Time Gulf Cup of Nations Champion, and having qualified to a World Cup in 1982, "Al Ashraq" or "The Blue" are a certain force in the Middle Easter part of Earth. While many sees a 1980-1982 Golden Age of the Kuwaitis in the football scene, they are certain and out to prove they can reach this era again. Proving themselves 10x on the Gulf Cup as they raise the trophy once again last year in the expense of another Gulf Champ, Saudi Arabia. The Score was 1-0.
Led by Bader Al-Mutwa who made 38 Goals in 55 Caps , and their Veteran Mid-Fielder Capt. Jarah Al-Ateeqi the kuwaitis has a lot to show on the field when it comes to discipline, endurance and competitiveness
As I watch them play here in Qatar in the last Asian Cup 2011, People talked of Kuwait as a nation to beat and beating them was not a walk in the park, high expectations for the 2010 Gulf Champions, the Kuwaitis were blanked in the recent 2011 AFC Asian Cup.
Knocked off on round 1 Beaten by China 2- 0, Uzbekistan 2-1 and Qatar 3- 0 but these doesn't mean they are no threat. Ranked 102 in the World. Kuwait has a lot to prove. Their coach has been giving the Team Stability since handling it 2 years ago, cohesion is eminent, they like playing long balls, and are extremely physical. Runs on a full tank and hungers for a comeback in the World Cup.
Hugely underrated and under-regarded, Kuwait have a solid record in regional football, but key weakness is that their league is Semi-Pro, none to few Kuwaitis had venture out to play outside the region for Professional Football Experience.
The Philippines sitting 159 at the FIFA World Ranking has indeed proven doubters of their deceiving looks, moreover turn tables of attention towards the country as an emerging football force in SEA. Their recent win Vs Sri lanka 4-0 has one of the best football ever seen from the Azkals. The closest the Philippines had experienced that is near Kuwaiit's prowess is Palestine in Physique, 70% Indonesian in Agility and Vietnam in Confidence, add shot precision and there you have your opponent.
The Climate here in the Middle East, ranges from 45-50C when the sun is up, whille temperature mellows down at 32-37C at night. The Azkals can well adapt to this instantly when they meet Bahrain for friendly games in Mid July. Certainly, it will never be like the Mongolian match wherein, the Coldness froze out muscles while the team played.
While playmaker Stephan Schrock will miss the 1st leg, Fil-Danish Jerry Lucena will come in for the team, along with Schrock, Aly Borromeo will be missing in action serving his suspension on 2 yellow cards from the Sri Lanka matches, Ray Jonsson was looming to come in from Ice Land but recent reports say that he may not be available due to his club's injury list of players and will badly need him, amidst the bad news, comes in a great one in Fil-Danish Dennis Cagara, who was reportedly available to suit up for the Philippine Squad.
The Azkals must play smart, defensive and convert counter attacks to successful self-less scoring plays. They have shown effective on short ball passes and can really compliment controlling the tempo of the game Vs Kuwait, Keeping the back line solid and intact while the forwards press on from MF to Finish, we can pull this off. I really believe we can defeat Kuwait, its just that how the Azkals can stick to battle plan thats going make or break it. If we can draw the game in Kuwait, We can certainly try to qualify big in Manila.
Our chances are 50% to win against a however 50 World Rankings Higher Kuwait. Weiss said " No Opponent is tough as long as we train hard. " he also reiterated that if the players gave more self-less plays Vs Sri Lanka in the 2nd Leg, goals would have come much higher.
The game with Kuwait will certainly result to an instant map of the Philippines in the World of football. A Certified Middle Easter Champion Vs a Nation of Football Converts. The Azkals will try to bring on the rain to this arid part of the region.