Sunday, September 09, 2012

Fair Play: PH vs. Singapore: Schrock and awe

IT was just a friendly, but damn, that win against Singapore is one of my favorite Philippine football matches, just next to that win against Vietnam in Suzuki Cup 2010 and against Palestine for third place in the AFC Challenge Cup.

We beat Singapore, 2-0, in Singapore!

Not only did we get two goals off them, something we haven’t done in 40 years, the Philippines, especially Stephen Schrock, made the three-time Asean champion  look amateurish. In their home court mind you.

I have to admit that I scoff at Coach Michael Weiss notion of the Philippines being one of the top teams in Asia in a few years, but that win against Singapore showed it's possible. Given the right support from all the stakeholders, we could be.

Yes, going into the match at No. 150 in the world and 22nd in Asia, we were ranked higher than Singapore (161, 28), but I never really consider the Fifa rankings as the gauge of how strong a team is as it merely shows (especially for countries at 120 to 180, which team had more games--more games means more points. (Heck, in the latest Fifa rankings, even England, which can't win a penalty shootout, is ranked third, nine places higher than 12th-ranked Brazil.

So for me, 161st-ranked Singapore is the favorite every time we meet, just as the Asean's top team Vietnam was the favorite in 2010.  But unlike that Vietnam game, when we were contented with a few counterattacks, against Singapore, we controlled the match.

If not for the pitch, and some poor finishing from the strikers, we could have been easily up, 4-0, in the first half.

And the goals were a thing of beauty. Chieffy Caligdong, a lefty, scored first with his "weak" right foot after a lucky bounce and the right-footed Phil Younghusband, scored with his left, a wonderful curling shot that evoked memories of his second goal against Vietnam.

And Schrock? What more can you say of this guy.  We can leave his contribution to tactical improvement to the experts, but Shrock is so good that his contribution in the game was noticeable enough for new fans who can't tell an offside from a throw in.

Schrock is a game-changer, and he has shown that against Kuwait, Malaysia, and now Singapore. 

The win of course, brings us to the most important question, "Does that mean we're going to win the Suzuki Cup?"

And the answer to that is simply no.

Because the Suzuki Cup, though it is the highest level of competition in the Asean region, is at the lowest rungs in the Fifa hierarchy, clubs who have Schrock and Neil Etheridge won't be compelled to release their players.  We'd be lucky if we'll have one of them.

Though Schrock is crazy enough to get red-carded in the Bundesliga, just so he'd be free to play for the Philippines,  I think we’ll see the midfielder only if we’d make the semis, which could coincide with the Bundesliga winter break.

By the way, there were a lot of criticisms on Jeffrey Christaens new position, but the Singapore friendly showed it seems to be working, don’t you think?  

I think the coaching staff has found a new defensive gem in Christaens.

RYAN IN CEBU.  Since we no longer have our usual hangout, we watched the game at the Marshall Irish Pub, with our special guest for the night, UFL commentator and AKTV writer, Ryan Fenix, who was in Cebu for a business trip.

Kaholeros Cebu’s Egay Salvacion, who couldn’t get home because of the monstrous traffic jam, was there with his kids, along with three other kaholeros.  So to was Doc Joel, who also had to fetch his daughter Carmel from school at half time and both caught the second half.


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