Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fair Play: In for the long haul

This column will come out on Sun.Star Cebu on July 25
LIKE I said, before going into the first leg of the World Cup qualifiers against Kuwait, I wasn't worried.

Aside from the fact that thousands of kababayans were cheering for the team, making them feel at home, there’s nothing to be worried when the other team is expected to win just by showing up, right?

A 2-0 loss, I thought, wouldn't be too shabby. Heck, I half expected a miracle, that we'd score, accidentally against Kuwait, the toughest team a Philippine football team has faced in the modern era.

Yep, when the other team is expected to win, there are no worries, for me.

So, I told myself, don’t be disappointed if the Azkals lose—the goals will come. Mighty Kuwait will find holes in the Azkal defense and losing isn’t exactly something new for a football fan, right?

But doggone it! Just 10 minutes into the match, despite being on the defensive end for most of the time, I could see the Azkals, winning.

I thought we could win this thing.

We should win this thing!

And that was a big surprise.  To be thinking of a win against mighty Kuwait when just an hour earlier, a narrow loss would have been quite an achievement.

We were 1-0 down in the first half, when it could have been easily 2-1 for us if not for that plucky keeper and that freakin’ bar.

Footballers joke that hitting the bar intentionally is the hardest thing to do in football and by golly we hit that darn bar twice. 

And then there was Phil Younghusband. Surprised, perhaps, that he wasn’t called offside in the game’s first real offensive opening, the lone striker up front sprinted down the 20-yard box, tried to beat the keeper but instead got foiled by a foot-save.

Aaah. If only Phil blasted it right, or even dared to chip if over the advancing keeper….

Then in the ensuing corner, Angel Guirado—who took so many tackles that would have hospitalized a weekend player—let loose a powerful header that bounced off the bar.

Kuwait, perhaps shocked that the minnows were taking the initiative offensively, fired a counter that resulted to a header getting past Neil Etheridge.


And yes, if only team captain Alexander Borromeo was there, he could have cleared it. He would have cleared it. Easily. Same with the two goals in the second half, Ali’s six-foot frame would have prevented it.

Then, just before half-time, Phil found an opening in the defense and let loose a powerful 20-yarder that beat the keeper but not the bar.

That freakin bar again. Phil, being the designated lone striker, had to take that shot as the defense was closing in. But if only one player caught up with him to take that pass, we could have been level, 1-1.

But that is football. The Azkals created their chances in the first half but failed to take advantage.

Instead of 1-0 down, we could have been up, 2-1, if only...but then again if only your Aunt had balls, he’d be your uncle.

I was disappointed with the loss and more surprisingly, I was shocked that I was disappointed with the loss.

The team, and the fans, are in a whole new ball game. We really don’t know what to expect as we’ve never been here before.

Just eight months after the Hanoi Miracle, here we are in the second round of the Fifa World Cup Asian qualifiers, disappointed that we lost against a team that so dominated possession they could have redesigned the football, what with all the time they spent with it.

Down 3-0, the Azkals will be back home, against a team that hasn’t lost in eight matches now. But we haven’t lost a home match too, in eight games, dating back to 2006.

What will happen in the home leg? I really don’t know. But what I do know is this, the team and the fans will be in this, together. We’ll be, as the cliché goes, in for the long haul. Not just the home match.

Now if only I can be in every home match… 


Marathon Foodie said...

Dear Mike,

Please padak-i gamay ang font kay di mi kabasa mga daot ug mata.


Go Azkals!

Mike said...

Hehehe. Already changed font Haids. Still trying to get used to blogger.

Thanks for dropping by. :-)

Anonymous said...

good read! :)
the feeling u have that u know their fate that they will lose against mighty kuwait and after seeing them play play, u realized that they can win this... thats the same feeling i have too.
but who knows?! on the 28th, it will be our pitch, our crowd and our game! :)

andsien said...

hehehe...pariha tag feeling...nakita man gud nato nga they could have scored...mag balik balik sa ating huna huna nga what if? what if angel scored, phil....hahahaha. Laina sa feeling...

John said...

para mu dako ang font pre ctrl + :)

Danny C said...

I too won't be on the home game Live. But if I happen to be on the same sports bar in Cebu on the 28th, one round of beer will be on me - as my thanks for your awesome writing.

I will introduce myself to you.

Mike said...

Thanks for the tip. I'll try ctrl + next time.

Hi Danny C, I'll be in Manila for this home leg. Hehehe, hope to catch you in the next Azkal match. I usually watch at Sports Exchange.

Anonymous said...

kita ko sa tibuok duwa pildi ta sa kuwait ato duwa kay retreating defense naatay 7 attempts 3 shots on target,,, ang kuwait (17 0r 27)attempts 3 shots on goal. score 3-0.. bilib ko sa duwa ni neil goalkeeper.. top class manuwa ang kuwait dapat mag trabaho pa jud ta.. lindot unta ato duwa first half pero di jud para ato na game.. bawi lng ta sa 2nd leg sa pilipinas.. ang kuwang nalang jud ato sa ila team ang maka score sa ist half kay nahitabo nanamo sauna mas mo lindot duwa sa rp kung naka score ta 1-1 b4 mahuman ang ist half... ang ila nalang ta e adjust ato mao ang midfield defense ug attack kay wala man si shrock kay kung naa pato naay mukuha sa midfield sa kontra mmo organize sa defensive build up zone.. ug sa pag kawala sab aly dako sab kausaban sa defensive zone nato... si shrock kung naa sab di na kinahanglan mag long passes ta kay dawaton nya bola ug ma distribute nya bola sa atubangan ug kung naa sab sya ma test sab nato kung asa jud ang duwa sa kuwait.. kay si ott di makalihok pag ayo sa midfield kung way timbang... mao sge nalang sab sya depensa.. para nako naa patay chance sa duwa deri pilipinas magtrabaho lng jud ta pag ayo..

Anonymous said...

"But that is football. The Azkals created their chances in the first half but failed to take advantage."

I totally agree. I guess that's what depressed me the most.

And then there were those spoiled possessions where the goalkeeper would just let hell loose and kick the ball far and wide, only to be taken by Kuwait. They should've been more patient. *sigh*

My disappointment lightened up though when I saw them making quick, short passes in the last few minutes. I barely saw any attempt of adapting to the Kuwaiti's game (which was frustrating because they kept making the same mistakes over and over again) but they finally realized that their strategy was not working.

Perhaps that alone is a good reason they lost.

*crosses fingers for the next game*

Anonymous said...

Sir Mike, nice article. your words exactly describe what i felt last Sunday. pero nalipay nako sa result sa 1st leg kay layo ra kaayo sa results way back 2002 WCQ. nice game overall!

Mike said...

Thanks, hope we will all have an enjoyable Thursday

Anonymous said...

i like ;p
From The Scroll

Mike said...

The scroll as in the Slrap Scroll?