Azkals stumble to China: Lessons to be learned
MANILA, Philippines – There is much to discuss after a 3-0 loss to China in Abu Dhabi.
Sven Goran Eriksson's tactical tweaks did not bear fruit
The Azkals coach made one switch from the first game, keeping Manny Ott on the bench and inserting Carli de Murga. But it was part of a rejiggering of the 5-4-1 formation that was so successful against Korea Republic.
De Murga took Luke Woodland's place in the right side of the three-man central defense. Woodland was stationed at right back, where Stephan Schrock was against the Koreans. Schrock then went upfield to a more attacking spot on the left flank.
Eriksson knows the Chinese players well, having coached there, so he might have had his reasons for moving the chess pieces. But the adjustments did not pan out.
Carli had some nervous moments early on, including a giveaway that led to a shot on goal. Stephan Palla was woefully out of position on the first goal, biting on a feint and giving Wu Lei all the time in the world to caress the ball over Michael Falkesgaard for the opener.
But the absence of Ott, for me, was deeply felt. Despite having 45% possession, more than double than the 19% against Korea, we really lacked a creative midfielder. Just one shot on target.
Ott was unremarkable against Korea and paid for it by donning a bib in the second game. But we all know what he is capable of. We have seen it too many times for club and country. In hindsight the coach may have been impatient in yanking him. I say he starts on Wednesday in the last group game. His passing skill is desperately needed.
Phil Younghusband came on midway through the 2nd half but was a non-factor.
What to do against Kyrgyzstan? In my opinion the 5-4-1 needs to be shelved in favor of a 4-2-3-1. A draw will do us no good. We need to commit troops forward and bulge the net. Perhaps Amani Aguinaldo's speed and athleticism deserve a chance in central defense.
Schrock Ott Reichelt
Sato Aguinaldo Silva Woodland
I find it remarkable that in a diaspora of 10 million, there are precious few Filipino centerbacks coming out of the woodwork.
With Alvaro Silva at 34, we ideally should have 5 to 6 young guns at the ready. Right now our best bets are Aguinaldo, Josh Grommen, who found a gig in Malaysia, Ian Clarino and Marco Casambre. It would be great if 2 or 3 other European-bred centerbacks would give these guys competition. It is an incredibly important position and we need depth, and not more non-CBs being shoehorned into that role.
And while we are at it, how do we produce a Wu Lei? China has invested massively in youth football development. We should do the same.
Shoutout to Daisuke Sato
In the second half, down 2-0, Sato sticks his head out near the byline to tidy up a loose ball, not caring that there was a Chinese shin in close proximity. He was very close to getting whacked in the face.
Sato cares. He has a club team in Romania that pays his wages. The national team can almost be considered a glorified sideline for these players, but Daisuke obviously takes pride in the shirt. To do that 2-0 down in a lost game showed that he was giving his all for the flag.
Let's be Panama
Panama qualified for the FIFA World Cup for the first time last year. There was that memorable footage of the Panamanian studio presenters weeping upon hearing their anthem being played before the game.
When Los Canaleros finally got on the scoresheet thanks to Felipe Baloy in their second game against England, their supporters celebrated as if they had won the World Cup. There were scenes of jubilation even at the final whistle.
Final score: England 6, Panama 1. The Panamanians didn't care.
Pinoy fans must have this attitude now, with passage to the next round highly unlikely. Let's savor the moment and be glad we have achieved this milestone. Let's cheer lustily if we finally do get that first goal on Wednesday.
Kyrgyzstan vs Philippines
AFC Asian Cup group stage
Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium, Dubai, UAE
9:30 pm Wednesday, January 16
LIVE on Fox Sports 2 and Fox +
Follow Bob on Twitter @PassionateFanPH – Rappler.com