This appears in the Monday, November 26, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.
Breaking down the loss to Thailand: This one hurts
Breaking down the loss to Thailand: This one hurts
by rick olivares
I was excited for this match against Thailand. I felt that we could make history with another huge upset. Is it wrong to think that? Not at all. After all, the Philippine Men’s Football National Team has come a long way. But for a team that is much deeper and stronger, we let in two goals. Two years ago we never let two goals go past the keeper.
You’ll say the past is the past and today is different. Sure it is. And if that is so then that loss sends us crashing back to earth with a 2-1 loss that could have been 3-1. Thailand did not play power football like they used to. They played clinical football with surgical strikes. There’s much to learn from this.
Here’s how I break down that loss.
We started with a strong team but it was not our best line-up.
Say that again?
I thought that for the last several months, in training camps, practices, or friendlies, it was about developing chemistry and if some players did not attend then they would not play. Wasn’t that why the Younghusband brothers were benched?
Take a look at the starting eleven of the Azkals against the War Elephants:
Ray Jonsson Rob Gier Juani Guirado Dennis Cagara
James Younghusband Jerry Lucena Paul Mulders Chieffy Caligdong
Phil Younghusband Angel Guirado
The substitutes were: Jason Sabio, Carli de Murga, Chris Greatwich, Jason de Jong, Marwin Angeles, Jeffrey Christiaens, Patrick Reichelt, and Ref Cuaresma.
Okay, so Neil Etheridge isn’t there but Eddie has played well as of late. I like Jerry Lucena and Dennis Cagara and have seen them make an impact on the team before but in the last few months, our team has seen more or less this line up:
Carli de Murga Jason Sabio Juani Guirado Jeffrey Christiaens
James Younghusband Patrick Reichelt Jason de Jong Chieffy Caligdong
Phil Younghusband Dennis Wolf
You can throw in Demitrius Omphroy, Matthew Uy, and even Misagh Bahadoran in there with the Younghusband brothers coming in as substitutes.
Ray and Rob were there in Cebu so that helps and I am fine with that. But the moment I saw the starting lineup, we should have gone with the team that was a little more familiar with one another. I felt that Christiaens, de Jong or Reichelt should have started while Cagara and Lucena should have come off the bench until they take stock of the situation for them to help out. I thought that maybe jetlag might have set in as they looked terribly slow and out of sync on the pitch. Maybe another day, they would have been magnificent but I thought the first game was too much of a gamble for that.
Two days before kickoff, I asked Weiss if he was going with the lineup that he has played for the last few games or put in his “dream team.” He said that was a tough decision and one that he and the coaches would weigh.
In my opinion, it was the wrong one. By not starting with the players the coaching staff has gone to for the last few games, we were gambling on talent rather than chemistry. We played horrible football after the first 10 minutes as we resorted to the long ball.
Yes, we threatened early on but so did they. Once Thailand settled down they figured us out.
You might say that in hindsight the substitutions worked for the Philippines but you have to think why not start Reichelt or even Christiaens? The moment they donned the national colors they have been superb additions.
The early injury to Phil Younghusband blunted our early momentum.
After an accidental head butt, Phil went out twice and spent collectively some 10 minutes in the sidelines getting treatment from the team physios. Playing with 10 men blunted our attack or what semblance of it we had. That was enough time for Thailand to organize their defense and play
Then Jerry Lucena got hit on the back of the head and he went out for like two minutes or so and that gave Thailand even more time to establish control of the match.
I believe that up to the point where Phil got hurt, we gave them fits. In a post-match conversation with Thailand assistant head coach Alexandre Polking, he said that the early threat forced them to change their tactics.
With Phil and Jerry out one after the other, Thailand was able to wrest control of the match. It didn’t help that our midfield was pretty much non-existent or even influential.
Winfried Schafer is a genius.
In my pre-game story, Schafer lamented the long ball style of play that Thailand previously resorted to. As a Bundesliga veteran and a midfielder for Borussia Monchengladbach, he would distribute the ball to his forwards. His first instinct as a player is to pass the ball in an efficient manner.
The style of play that Thailand showed is a far cry from the smash and grab tactics of 2010 under Bryan Robson. The War Elephants were more deliberate in their build up. They played those small triangles on the attack and usually took one dribble before passing. Teerasil Dangda, the Muangthong United striker who leads the Thai Premier League in scoring was able to magnificently set up his teammates.
Schafer also preached fitness and conditioning and his players looked sharp, fit like horses, and darn precise.
After the Philippines threatened in the early goings, Thailand’s adjustment was simple. From a 3-4-3 formation, they went to a 5-4-1 formation. The extra defender on our right side saw the supply of balls shut down from that area.
On the attack, boy, were they creative. Anucha Kitpongsri (Chonburi) started out as the left-winger but he would sometimes lead the attack or drop back and let Theerathon Bunthaman (Buriam United) take his spot in the secondary. That gave us different looks. Both players play the same position for their respective Premier League clubs and can play either the wing or as a defender. Their build up from the back was especially impressive.
The system that Schafer has been promoting was on full display and if I wasn’t a Filipino, I’d be dancing and chanting along with their fans.
What was that all about, Coach Mike?
One thing about the Suzuki Cup that you have to appreciate is the tactical nous of coaches. The influence on European coaches in the Southeast Asian game has been incredible. Even the regional coaches have learned much and have become heroes in their own right.
Malaysia has Krishnasemy Rajagopal. Singapore has Raddy Avramovich. And Thailand has Winfried Schafer.
The Philippines has seen much success under Michael Weiss but in two years’ time, I have yet to see that organized build up from the back that he has talked about played on a more consistent basis.
I agree with Weiss that the referee, Otsuka Haruhiro, made plenty of questionable calls that favored the Thai divers but they did not by any chance change the complexion of the game. Incidentally, it was Haruhiro who also awarded yellow cards to two of our players that caused them to miss the match against Tajikistan in the AFC Challenge Cup. But again, four Thais were cautioned while there were only two to the Philippine side. But the costliest was the ejection of Weiss that means he will not be on the bench for the match.
I cannot understand this: during the post-match press con he said that he merely wanted to roll the ball to the fallen Thai player who fell after a collision with Dennis Cagara. Well, that didn’t look like a roll to me as he took a basketball free throw at the Thai and sank it (looks like living in the Philippines has seen the roundball game rub off on him somehow). And so Haruhiro sent him off. I don’t get it, he was even arguing with the fourth official who wanted to send him to the dugout. Instead, he watched from the stands. That for sure will make the match commissioner’s report. I just hope there are no further sanctions.
Prior to the ejection, with time running out, a free kick was won by the Philippines. Weiss pointed to his temple indicating to use one’s brains. No idea what he meant by that but I can only surmise from what happened is that he commended his players for using their brains.
Unfortunately, he didn’t when he threw the ball to the Thai player. It was a moment of pent up frustration he lost it. And now he won’t be there for the next game.
I asked Schafer what he thought of this and he expectedly dodged any controversy. But he did say that, “He’s (Weiss) a young coach and he will learn.”
Yes, we will learn and yes, there is still hope.
Vietnam, even with the return of 2008 hero Le Cong Vinh looked impressive in the first half. But Myanmar’s halftime adjustments saw them threaten on the counter and they won a penalty that proved to be the equalizer.
The Philippines’ late game adjustments worked and that was a magnificent cross by Reichelt that Paul Mulders volleyed home to pull back one. The momentum swung our way and we threatened a bit more. But the Thais, as they did in the first half, choked the ball out of the midfield to turn the tide once more.
That was a lesson in small ball tactics, passing, and team play that was served us.
On Tuesday, Vietnam will come out like gangbusters because they know, like us, that the match will be literally win or go home.
The Azkals have to win against Vietnam and Myanmar. No draws but wins with goals aplenty scored.
I remain a firm believer that the team will learn from this defeat and next Tuesday will be every bit as important as that home match against Kuwait during the World Cup Qualifiers of last year.
I’ve told friends that it will take us a generation for us to see us become a real football power. Everything that the Azkals are going through right now will prepare us for that. It’s a painful defeat no doubt after we threatened early and after the Mulders goal where the Thai crowd was stunned, we sure are on the right track.
Tuesday. For the marbles. And refrigerator magnets.