Sunday, October 14, 2012

Azkals vs The Reds(Bahrain) A time for old men

The Red *

Sure you'd always want to be positive when rooting for your national team. Sure you know that it would be a mighty undertaking. Maybe deep down, you felt they'd probably lose because, well, it's just that the numbers call for a loss. They're the big boys after all and were the new guys trying to get a foot in the door. But sometimes while you may not get what you want, you'll get what you deserve. And we did! 

For starters, before the match FIFA had the Azkals at its historical high of 147th while Bahrain was at 115th, they have been as high as 44th in 2004. In the more "logical" ELO ratings, the Philippines are at 163 and Bahrain was at 99th (an even wider margin). To add, the Philippines still remains the ELO's highest improving team to date, this even before the Bahrain match. 


Quite a few Azkal players probably played the game of their lives in this match. But most of them happen to be, the old guys, but lets start with the offense.

Denis Wolf had more than one extra yummy shots at goal that he could not convert. A breakaway attempt(29:55) between him and the opposing goalie and no one else. It was a situation reminiscent of Phils breakaway goal against Singapore. My first thought was, "if only Phil was there" but of course he wasn't and it is a question to forever file under the "what if's" section. Then as I replayed that particular sequence one can't help but commend the Bahraini goal keeper, it was a very difficult reflex save indeed. 

Poor Denis, every game he'll play for the Azkals will be a game he'll be compared to, by most, to Phil especially after his goal scoring spree in the Peace Cup. I hope most realize that he is what he is, the second choice striker/forward behind Phil(for obvious reasons) but he actually has other traits better than Phil that will always make him a valuable asset for the Azkals. Among them is his willingness to play defense, a very good aerial game and a relatively good motor.

Chieffy remains the second best goal scorer of the Azkals. He is still among the fastest Azkals even at the age of 30. He showed in this game that he is still an attacker to be reckoned with and coming close to scoring a few times. 

Reichelt was very quiet in this game, undoubtedly because of the very high level competition compared to what he's played with, with the Azkals. He's going to need a few more "seasoning" games to even be close to replacing the incumbent James Younghusband.

Marwin played adequate, still showing his excellent strength and good passing skills. He did seemed tired or listless starting around the 60+ min. It could have been the heat though as the field temperature was reported to be very high and a shot of Marwin at the 67th minute showed him mouth open and looking spent.

If there was a category for "Impact Sub" then undoubtedly Misagh Bahadoran deserves this award. His relatively short 25 minutes on the pitch belies his contribution. He managed to ignite the Azkals offense and the teams only good try for a goal in the second half all along making himself a nuisance on defense. He has not played this well since he played in the KIA Cup match versus Icheon Citizen(a non FIFA match). Also among the fastest Azkal players Misagh's niche is as a late game substitute when his speed is even more an asset against tired legs. I hope he continues his wonderful play.

Mulders had his moments but was otherwise surprisingly quiet. BUT, look back at 4:15 and you can see what passing quality Paul offers the team!

For the typical Azkal fan Roland Müller will always be the second goal keeper behind Neil, but even if he is, he isn't a very far second. This Bahrain friendly result is arguably one of the best games the Azkals has played in recent memory and he was there to man our last ditch defense. He was extremely competent except for a bad flub at the early 1st half, though saved by Gier. 

The Old Men

Ok Dennis Cagara isn't old at 27 yo(at his peak really) and once again he showed his awesome quality. Though short he has other great attributes. Speed, a strong physique which he uses well battling for the ball against an opponent and he was an important cog of that defense which withstood the Bahraini attack for the full 90'. 

Unfortunately for Jerry Lucena, the average fan normally wouldn't see the excellent(and I mean excellent) work he does on the pitch. Make no mistake, this draw was a product of his defense along with the back four. After he subbed out(and this is no stab at Matt Uy's performance) Bahrain became just a little more dangerous. This 32 yo defensive midfielder definitely has a spot in the Azkals "Dream Team".

Rob Gier at 31 isn't a spring chicken by any stretch of the imagination, quite slow and short for a center back(European standard), but he has probably never played as well as he did for the Azkals than against The Reds! He is the undoubted Captain of that Azkals defense and with skill and a sprinkling of luck, plunged this particular Azkal team into the Azkals record books. To blank a team 32 steps above them cannot be called luck. This was Robs Gier's golden moment.

Ray Jónsson had an awful game on offense. He seemed, and he has been doing this in previous games, to force a  quick counter attack by utilizing the long ball. He failed miserably. I didn't count but by my estimation he has a less than 50% completion rate with those passes. BUT where he succeeded, and continues to succeed, is on defense. Ray has average speed but has got a 90 minute motor. He hardly looks tired even at the waning moments of a game. Besides his numerous defensive stops, he was hardly(but not always) ever out of place at the RB position. You can call this defender, Mr. Reliable. Did I mention he's 33 years old?

Juani Guirado is one who I've been watching prior to his arrival in the Philippines(see HERE ) and boy did he surpass all my expectations of him. If you want to see his defensive quality watch from around the 85-86th minute and especially at injury time. He too is an oldy but definitely a goody at 33 years old. Versatile and extremely competent, in this match he was Batman to Rob Gier's Superman!

Man of the Match

For obvious reasons I favored Rob Gier as he captained, then slid and tackled his way to a draw against this mighty middle eastern team, but because of his late game heroics I wanted to include Juani. Then as I watched the game over I realized these old veterans remained on the pitch while younger ones were subbed out. Weiss wasn't going to lose this game so he stayed with the steady ones Gier, Jonsson, Juani & Cagara.

My "Man of the Match" are the entire Azkal backline. The offense failed to produce a winning goal, the defense bailed them out by allowing none. Kudos to the old men plus one, this momentous achievement is because of them.

The Coach

To be fair, the whole thing wouldn't have been possible without his coaching, and while I'll hold off on joining the Weiss bandwagon(coach what's up with the long passes again?), he also deserves recognition. So take a bow coach, you deserve it! 

*Credit for the picture to the owner; borrowed from


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