Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

It’s a win against Guam. But we could have done more.

It’s a win against Guam. But we could have done more.
by rick olivares pic from anton sheker and 

It was the 114th Anniversary of the Philippines’ declaration of independence yesterday and one way to celebrate was to play neighboring Guam in an international friendly. In some cold-hearted way, I was expecting not 112 goals but a bushel load. Maybe to make up for the recent 2-2 draw with Indonesia. Maybe to send a message. Maybe to flex those muscles and pad everyone’s tally. The reality is we had to settle for a 3-0 win and in large part to the Fil-Spaniards (whose country of origin we ceded from those 112 years ago) Angel Guirado and Carli de Murga who supplied the goals.

It was a win all right but it was a somewhat painful sight to watch.

From kick off, there was an obvious lack of quality to the Matao. From their clumsy challenges to their passing and defense I was afraid that one of the Azkals might suffer an inadvertent injury. Players were getting clipped and knocked down and all of a sudden a battle for a header opens up Rob Gier's head. I stopped counting at five at the number of times Azkals players went down and the incredible thing is referee Steve Supresencia whether he was trying his darn best to be impartial actually went overboard with his yellow cards. He must have taken down notes from Carlos Velasco Carballo who officiated the Euro 2012 opener between Greece and Poland where he handed out six cards (his average per match).

The Matao, as the Guam team is nicknamed, weren’t the only painful ones to watch. So were the Philippines.

We rise to the challenge of tough teams. But surprisingly against Guam, the level of play went down.
I got the feeling that the Azkals knew they could handle Guam and that overconfidence led to poor passing and even spottier defense. I only recall Dennis Cagara, Marwin Angeles and James Younghusband making those extra or one-touch passes to find open teammates that led to the goals and other scoring opportunities. The frustration was obvious to see on the telly when passes were not forthcoming. Almost every player seemed to try and beat the Matao one-on-one in hopes of scoring.

The 3-0 scoreline looks good but not when you’re playing a talent-challenged opponent. Remember how Japan and Indonesia used to make us pay with clinical and ruthless 13-goal beatdowns? You mean, you don’t remember? That wasn’t too long ago. This match was the football version of the Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley fight where they traded pleasantries instead of punches. Qatar, whether they were helped by the referees or not, bushwhacked Indonesia 10-0 in a World Cup Qualifying match! We should be destroying opponents who will have no qualms about doing the same to us given the situation.

With almost everyone going forward to join the attack, we left behind two defenders and one time, we were lucky that a Guam player was called offside or he might have had a free pass to the goal. But then again given the level of their finishing, he still might have missed.

Case in point: the Matao’s Zachary Deville who had a Mario Balotelli moment. Balotelli, the Italian forward was bearing down on Spain’s Iker Casillas in their Euro 2012 clash when he took a little too long to release a shot and defender Gerard Pique knocked the ball away. Against the Azkals, Deville found space on the right and drove forward. Once inside the box, he opted to push the ball a wee bit more instead of unloading at Azkals’ keeper Neil Etheridge. And Rob Gier – bless the man’s fighting heart – slid in for the rescue with a tackle to send the ball out of harm’s way.

Our defense isn’t as robust as we’d like to think it is. We shouldn’t be taking chances and the Matao nearly pulled back one or even two.

Nevertheless, whether one is satisfied or not, it was still a win.

We really need to make better passes.
I am really surprised that we have a lot of European-based players yet when they get all get together, it’s every man for himself. You would think that with how Barcelona has shown the world how to play beautiful football we’d try to adapt a modicum of it yet we’re not even within the vicinity of a string of passes. Too much dribbling and not much passing or combination plays. When we needed to make the extra pass it just wasn’t there. Had they been made we could have added to the final tally by a lot more.

Check out this incredible 25-pass sequence by Argentina during the 2006 World Cup that led to a goal against Serbia.

The Philippines’ moments of brilliance were few and far in between. There were the brilliant goals by Angel Guirado with both set up by the equally superb Dennis Cagara. There was the sublime Angeles pass to de Murga whose perfectly timed cut led to a masterful finish.

Maybe the coaching staff can ensure that the ball is funneled to Angeles and James a little more. After all, they are some of the best set-up men in these parts. I thought that Angeles played well as he had adjusted better to his national teammates. As for James Younghusband, I loved how he was looking to set up his teammates. When Anto Gonzales came in, it was too late and the fans were not able to get even a glimpse of what he could do.

You have to feel bad for Jonah Romero.
Romero is the captain of Guam and local football fans have seen his quality with Kaya. He can play multiple positions on the field and has excellent speed when raiding the flanks. It’s too bad that he wasn’t able to show how good he can be with the play of the Matao. Romero had a shot on goal but apart from that, we only saw him throw the ball in on several occasions.

But credit the Matao for not giving up and playing great defense in the second half. In the first 45 minutes of play, they would send the ball out of bounds as a means of stopping the Azkals’ attacks. There were instances where they could have passed the ball or even advanced it but due to the pressure applied to them they sent it out. And for a while, the Philippines camped out on Guam’s side of the pitch like the Chinese are doing at the Spratlys.

Whatever their head coach told them at the half worked because they stopped the Philippines cold in the last half of the game.

A game at Panaad Stadium is always good.
For the longest time, Panaad and Iloilo Stadium were the venues for the Philippines’ home matches. The Visayan fans have been turning up for matches even before the recent football explosion and it is good to regularly reward them with home matches by the national team.

Maybe because Bacolod City is smaller than Metro Manila, when it’s match day in Panaad Stadium, you can feel the electricity in the air. The sense of anticipation. I didn’t go there this time around but my friends who made the trip all tell me that it was electric.

One of the most gratifying things I have witnessed since December 2010 (aside from my editor no longer putting aside my football articles) is seeing the fans coming out everywhere to watch and support the national team. And this isn’t just at home but also abroad. 

It is heartening to see the continued development of the Philippine Men’s Football National Team. Our record in these past three friendlies is 1-2-0. We could have tacked on one more win but at the end of the day, it wasn’t a bad result. And looking at what I pointed out above, I’d say these are good problems to have.

One at a time. At least we’re headed in the right direction.

Philippines: Neil Etheridge, Carli de Murga, Rob Gier, Jason Sabio, Jerry Lucena, Dennis Cagara, James Younghusband, Marwin Angeles, Angel Guirado, Denis Wolf, and Phil Younghusband.

Guam: Dallas Jeffrey Jaye, Joshua Borja, Ian Mariano, Micah Paulino, Zachary DeVille, Jonathan Romero, Ian Adamos, Dylan Naputi, and Anthony Paulino.

Personally, I was hoping to see Eddie Sacapaño get some playing time. Even if only for the last few minutes. He's in his hometown and who knows how much longer he'll be with the national squad? 


  1. It's 114th independence not 112th. Yes, coach Weiss should have given sacapano playing time seeing that competition is already overwhelmed. Good thing sacapano is thankful just to be with the team and earn more savings.

  2. I also hungered for more goals last night. Even so, there is one thing which deserves a sigh: we have seen what the perfect possible combination is within the team not only due to the game with Guam but also because of the summed June friendlies. Good to note, we have seen Filipino talents in a different perspective in such a way that we won't always be left empty-handed when our Fil-European players like Dennis Cagara (who deserves an enormous uproar) could not be able to play for the team.

  3. decent result what happened to this azkal?