The four-year stalemate ends tonight. Here are my thoughts on who will come out on top of this friendly match.
The Azkals Back Four
Much of the focus tonight will be the starting defenders for the Azkals. Our best center backs Juani Guirado and Rob are out for personal reasons and we will be missing them greatly in this match. With the captains duties passed on to Anton del Rosario, it is inevitable that he will start and he will take his natural right back position. Coach Thomas Dooley has the knack to try out young players like Amani Aguinaldo but If I were a betting man, my money would go to Simone Rota and Carli Martinez de Murga. Daisuke Sato would be the other wingback for the Azkals.
Resilient Malaysian Attack
Given that we have an untested back four combination coming in, it will be very difficult for us to defend against a team that has been playing together for a long time. It was evident in the last friendly in Selayang Stadium where the Tigers had the shots advantage and was saved by the woodwork twice. I bet the Malaysian players had sleepless nights over that draw and they will definitely come out firing tonight. Patrick Deyto will surely be busy manning the sticks against the resurgent Syafiq Rahim and company.
FT Philippines 1 – Malaysia 2 (HT 0-1)
Sadly, my gut tells me that were on the losing end of this game. With our key strikers missing,matching up against Malaysia’s A team will be difficult given that their focus would be shifted to the other players. Malaysia will go all out on attack as they will take fully test our new back four. This will result to a goal for the tigers in the first half given that our defenders would still be adjusting to each other. The Azkals will adjust and get one back but the the visitors might sneak in one more
I really hope that I am wrong in this one. But results to me are not as important as the learnings that our players (especially the young ones) will get from this experience. This will surely make our final-22 tougher for the AFC Challenge Cup, as you really cant predict injuries and bookings in a tournament. Like the HYDRA in the Captain America Movies, “If they cut off one head, two more shall take it’s place”.
There are things that we can’t control in the pitch but the one thing we can control is our support. So to our friends in Cebu, please give the visitors our warmest welcome. GIVE. THEM. HELL.