Sunday, December 04, 2011

Azkals played well against LA...for 45 minutes

(This is the draft of my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu on Dec. 5)
ONE thing I liked about the Philippines vs. LA Galaxy friendly last Saturday was how the Azkals played in the first half, and if they manage to maintain that level for the whole 90 minutes, I’m pretty hopeful for their AFC Challenge Cup campaign.

After Beckham scored with that curling right-footer of his, the Azkals had ample scoring opportunities with Chieffy Caligdong, Angel Guirado, Phil Younghusband and Manny Ott taking turns at the Galaxy goal.

Chieffy had two shots off both feet, while Ott showed his deft touch, with a quick turn and a left-footed volley. Younghusband, who had two great chances from outside the box with his powerful right foot, scored the lone goal, with his left, curling the ball past the keeper, 2-1.

The Philippines also showed a nice build-up late in the first half, but sadly, they couldn’t convert  while the Galaxy made the host pay in counter attacks.

In fact, the home side had more shots—8 to 6—in the first half, and it’s that kind of offense the team needs in the Challenge Cup, where it seems, the football gods are collecting the favor for the Philippines getting in the Group of Hope in the SEA Games.

In the Challenge Cup, the Philippines will be in for what probably is its toughest tournament to date as it will be facing off with the three previous champions in Tajikistan (2006 champion), India (2008) and North Korea (2010).

Yep, it’s going to be one tough Challenge Cup and the good thing is, the senior team knows what it needs to do in a tournament like the Challenge Cup since most of the players were in the squad that missed out the 2008 and 2010 main draw.

And of course, now that the Pinoy fans are familiar with the club vs. country commitment, the big question is, who will be available for the tournament?

Club commitment barred Neil Etheridge, Stephen Shrock, Dennis Cagara and Paul Mulders in the Galaxy friendly, while Cagara also missed out on the World Cup qualifiers.

Since it is one of the lower tier tournaments, the Challenge Cup is not one of those events where clubs are required to release their players for national duties, and the Philippines would have to rely on the generosity of the clubs to release their players.

Team captain Aly Borromeo also won’t be able to play in the Challenge Cup due to an injury he sustained in the UFL Cup last month, and we all saw how a Borromeo-less defense, fared right?

But on the positive side, this team has the advantage compared to the 2008 squad, when Aly also got injured a week before the AFF Championships started and then coach Aries Caslib only had a week to tweak his defensive line.

And unless they’re sleeping on the job, I’m confident Coach Michael Weiss and Dan Palami have been changing thoughts on who would fill Aly’s big defensive role.

As to offense, we’ve got Angel and Phil upfront and also during the Galaxy game, in the Philippine’s final attack, there was de Murga, a defender, going all the way up front  before just missing with his chip, so this guys can play.

I just hope that before the Challenge Cup, the senior team will get to have a couple—or even more—friendlies with top teams.

Maybe Becks can even return, this time with Alphonso Arreola and the PSG?

1 comment:

Azkaholic Anonymous said...

Homeboy insider in LA says LA Galaxy giving looks to Phil Younghusband for next roster. Wouldn't confirm but says his name came up. I hope other MLS teams catches on.