Friday, September 28, 2012

Fair Play: Azkals show why it's a team game

LAST night's 5-0 rout of Macau was just the latest in a string of home victories for the Philippine national team, a streak that started in 2006 when we beat East Timor, 7-0, in the second game of the AFF Championship qualifiers in Bacolod.

Sixteen games--11 wins, three draws and two losses.  Not bad, isn't it? Not bad at all. (I'm only counting the international matches and those three losses against clubs like LA Galaxy, Icheon City and CF Madrid aren't included)

Even before the Azkals craze hit the country, we've done well at home, as shown by those five wins pre-2010 and last night's five-goal rampage against Macau was one of the best showing of the national team.

In 16 matches, we've tallied 42 goals, while conceding only six.  And in the first two games of the former Paulino Alcantara Cup? It's six goals for us, zero for the opponents.  And of course, we've haven't gotten a yellow card and we've rarely seen a player complain excessively against calls, with the match card-baiting gestures and all. Sometimes, if you a player who loves to yak in the field, it disrupts a team's cohesion, teamwork and confidence, especially if, aside from an official, he turns on a teammate. 

The only disappointment in the other night's game was Ian Araneta, and the Air Force striker has failed to silence his critics with yet another forgettable performance and it's a pity, considering he was one of the best in the squad pre-2010.

When it was mentioned on TV that Jason Sabio was warming up in the sidelines, I knew Ian was off in an early sub. Anytime a coach brings in a defender, while the defenders on the field are playing superbly and there's no injury, it means an underperforming midfielder or forward will be replaced.  That night, it happened to be Ian, and

subs like OJ Porteria showed us last night that perhaps he deserves a starting spot in the next game.

Of course, last night's revelation was Denis Wolf, the striker who have struggled a lot, lately.  Well, he's more than struggled. Before last night's match, Wolf kept mis-firing that it was time to come up with a DWSM, to spare our twitter friends who tweetcast matches. Denis Wolf shoots, misses was a recurring theme.

And last Thursday, the Global FC striker picked the perfect time to change the script, coming up with one of the most impressive performances of a national team player with a hat trick.  And, if not for some early misfiring, he could have netted five. DWSS AA. Denis Wolf shoots, scores! Again and again!

However, my favorite goal last Thursday night was the fourth one, a Kaya to Global connection.  Off a short corner, Porteria--as he has been doing everytime he's on the field--weaved through the defense effortlessly before connecting with Patrick Reichelt for a perfect pass that left the Macau keeper unable to move.  Makes you anticipate what this kid will be doing in a Kaya jersey in the UFL Cup.

What I liked about the move is that the Azkals decided to change tactics, going for a short corner when in  the past two games, the absence of an aerial threat made our corner pieces lack sting.  Back in 2002, in one of the rare televised matches, the TV commentators kept criticizing the team for not taking short corners when our strikers. then, stood almost a foot shorter than the defenders.  That time, the only moment when we got a real chance was off a short corner.

And with the team seeing how successful it was, perhaps it's time too, they'd design a new play for the signature long throws of Jason Sabio--AKA a dead-ringer for Jose Rizal. 

The Azkals latest recruits--Demetrius Omphroy, Matt Uy and Reichelt--also showed us why they are on the team, seizing the midfield and controlling the play and Wolf was the recipient of most of their passes.

For a team and coaching staff that has been through a lot, last night’s game was a welcome reprieve.  And of course, what better way to cap it than another win on Saturday?

P.S. With Santi Araneta and Craig Burrows poised to repeat their Manila Pen swim, I hope Dan Palami, Coach Michael Weiss and the Cedelf Tupas will also do something crazy should results be favorable this Saturday.

A solo gangnam jog in the oval for Dan, perhaps? Crazy? So was taking charge of the national team two years ago.

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