Its like watching Olaf of the movie: Frozen, the Azkals were literally melted by the Maldives’ summer heat. The creativity and speed from the Afghanistan game evaporated. This even prompted Thomas Dooley to replace Stephan Shrock in the 70th minute. This weather will be a factor as the last group game against Turkmenistan is of the same time slot.
There is still some slight unfamiliarity with the Azkals. With the reintroduction of Phil, Paul Mulders, Rob Gier, and Dennis Cagara, the players were still feeling each other out as the team had some difficulty with linking up to each other. This would manifest in incomplete plays and in some ways difficulty in finishing in the final third. At one point in the second half, you could see that our central midfielders drifting back to the defense while our strikers were glued to the Laos back line.
The Azkals best combination is still in the works. With Shrocky having the license to roam the field, this means that Phil has to stay up top and be the target man. This left him vulnerable to Laos’ physicality which he eventually avoided when he took a deeper role after Shrock’s substitution. Switching Patrick Riechelt from left to right after a James Younghusband substitution showed that Riechelt still prefers that side of the field. Mulders and Cagara are still feeling their way in the team.
Phil Younghusband is not yet 100%. Highlighted by missing a ‘clear’ chance in front of goal, Phil has really struggled in today’s game. He was clearly targeted by the Laos defense with added physicality which was compounded by the searing heat. Let’s give him time though as he really came from a bad injury. I expect him to get back to his true form by the Semis.
Amani earning his first cap (I think). The young kid from Davao was clearly feeling the jitters with his errant passes, passing the ball too quickly, and the reliance to the back pass. But kudos to the team for always giving him the ball for him to get more confidence in the game. He’s still 19 years old so this is a big step for his career.
A 4-goal cushion would have been ideal, but a win is a win. The other ‘goal’ of the game was to match Turkmenistans scoring output but the other factors I mentioned above prevented us from reaching it. The ideal scenario now would be a goalless draw for Group B’s other match with Afghanistan and Turkemenistan which then would allow us to go through with a win or at least a 1-all draw on our last game..
On a lighter note
- There’s a player named “Tiny” on the Laotian side.
- Dennis Cagara and Martin Steuble would be sure winners in Kaloka-like
- Balut Doctora introducing Ilonggo football by giving a hard foul to the opponent after checking in
- The Japanese coach of Laos crying foul to the fourth official on Dennis Cagara’s frustation kick on one of their water bottles
.Best of luck to the Azkals on Saturdays game. Animo!