This appears in the Friday July 29, 2011 edition of the Business Mirror.
Philippines crashes out of World Cup party
by rick olivares with photo by brosi gonzales
Kuwait, with concerns about the rain and the hostile crowd, sent the Philippines packing from the Asian Qualifiers of the 2014 World Cup with a 2-1 win and 5-1 aggregate score at a jampacked Rizal Memorial Football Stadium last Thursday night.
Just when a flicker of hope was kept alive by a screamer from the fiery Stephan Schrock in extra time of the first half that gave the Philippines its first goal of the series, Kuwait’s Yousef Naser played the role of a cold-blooded assassin. Naser, playing on top of the more celebrated Bader Al Mutwa in Al Azraq’s 4-4-2 attack formation, scored his second goal in as many matches in the 62nd minute that silenced the home crowd.
Kuwait’s target man scored on a rocket from some 25 feet out that skirted past Azkals’ goal keeper Neil Etheridge to put the visitors on level terms for the match and the outcome almost beyond reach. And considering that Kuwait was down to 10 men after midfielder Fahed Al Ebrahim was sent off in the 60th minute after two cautions in both halves, it was a testament to Kuwait’s skill and experience.
And in the 84th minute, midfielder Waleed Ali took another well-placed through ball, outraced Azkals’ captain Aly Borromeo, skirted past an onrushing Etheridge to slot home the ball as left back Ray Jonsson gave futile chase.
While the Philippines started out in the same fashion as they did in Kuwait, attacking and raiding the opposing midfield’s passing lanes, Al Azraq put the clamps down and saw themselves with several decent chances to go one up.
In the 16th minute, midfielder Waleed Ali beat the Philippine back four after he tracked down a long ball but his blast went wide.
And perhaps to illustrate how they could break down the Philippines’ defense with sublime through passes and two-touch passing, Al Mutwa found a hole in the 17th minute for a pass. Only no one raced in to smash the ball home.
“We did not want to be passive,” said Kuwait assistant coach Abdulaziz Hamad. “We knew this game meant more to the Philippines. The pressure was on them.”
Kuwait showed that it was a team worth it’s No. 95 ranking by FIFA as Al Azraq had 20 attempts at the Philippine goal with six on target; keeping Etheridge busy as the Azkals’ back four was embattled all night long.
It didn’t help that the Filipinos gave up 12 fouls to the mere three of Kuwait. The fouls given up by the home side led to four free kicks.
“We gave them the space to shoot,” said head coach Michael Weiss who tempered his disappointment with hope. All series long, the Filipinos were concerned with Kuwait’s speed. The damp pitch, due to the rains brought about by Typhoon Juaning did not prove to be a problem for the visitors just as they predicted. “Maybe if Phil Younghusband scored early on. Maybe even the Angel Guirado header, that would have been a bigger boost. But we were unable to finish properly.”
If Weiss did not want to give excessive praise, Kuwait was more effuse.
“If you keep to what you are doing you will be an Asian power in two maybe four years,” said Hamad. “You have the skills and the players. Just make it come together.”
Added head coach Goran Tefugdzic, “It was a challenge playing the Philippines. They gave us trouble here and there but I think it was our experience that got us through.”
“As you can see,” noted Weiss. “Football is brutal and harsh. But with more training, more support, finding more quality players, we will be a World Cup contender in four years.”
Weiss said that the team will take a badly needed break as they have been mostly out of the country for training and competition. The focus of the national team will be the Under-23 squad that will compete in the Southeast Asian Games this coming November in Indonesia and the next phase of the AFC Challenge Cup.
I apologize for my game recap. Am unhappy with it as I had to cram for this in 10 minutes. I was busy hosting the post-match press con and getting the post-match stats that by the time I made it back to my seat (all soaking wet and my fever raging once more), I didn't have a whole lot of time. Will make up for it with the next one as I have a little more time now. Thanks for reading.
I'd like to thank some people here: Nonong Araneta, Bonnie Ladrido, Cathy Rivilla, JP Demontaño, Rod Nepomucena, Edward Kho, Dan Palami, Franco Lorenzo, Ace Bright, Michael Weiss, Chad, Joji and the rest for everything. Thanks also to Tareq Al Yahya and Mr. Talal Al Mehteb as well as Coach Goran.
Have so many anecdotes I do not know where to start.