A preview of the second leg semifinals match between the Philippines and Singapore
thoughts and pic by rick olivares
The pressure is on Singapore for sure.
In three matches this year (including friendlies), Singapore has yet to find the back of the net.
They have reacted and bristled at not only the Philippines but also their own media. This reminds me of Vietnam and how they reacted during the 2010 Suzuki Cup.
First, let’s check out what happened in 2010.
In the group stages, then-Vietnam head coach Henrique Calisto wonder aloud about scoring a bunch of goals against the Philippines in the pre-tourney presscon. After the Philippines’ 1-1 draw with Singapore, he sounds confident but preaches a little caution. In the post-match, he talks of disrespect and picks a fight with the Philippines’ head coach.
Cut back to this 2012 edition of the Suzuki Cup.
In the pre-match press conference, Singapore head coach Radojko Avramovic bristles at the no-show of Philippines head coach, Michael Weiss. He also says that Phil Younghusband’s thoughts that the Philippines can beat the Lions smacks of disrespect. Michael Weiss reacts to Avramovic’s statement back in Manila.
In the pre-second leg press con, Avramovic gets angry and says that questions about the Lions’ inability to score against the Philippines are “negative thinking.”
Hmm. It is not. It is a legitimate sports question. He also gets mad at a reporter and singles him out when he asked about contentiousness between him and Weiss by saying, “You made it up.”
Very defensive answer and no, it was not made up. Furthermore, it sounds so familiar. I wish I could pinpoint who it is J.
In an article in the Straits Times, several Singapore players called out Azkals midfielder Angel Guirado for diving. “He’s a big strong guy but he dives too much,” Lions midfielder Fahrudin Mustafic was quoted as saying.
Duric backed up his teammate by saying: “He likes to go down easily. He is big, tall, and a strong guy but some of the free kicks he won against us were questionable.”
The Lions also were referring to a match incident in the Philippines’ home match where defender Daniel Bennett was assessed a yellow card for what they call “an innocuous challenge” on Guirado.
After the Lions’ practice was cut short by a huge downpour last night, Lions striker, Aleks Duric said: “It’s about damn time that we score against them and they lose!” Of course he said that with a smile and not like he was hot under the collar.
Added the ageless wonder: “We have created a lot of chances. It just a matter of converting them. One goal is not enough because there is danger if they score. We have to stake our claim early in the match.”
Incredibly, former Malaysian national player and current Harimau Muda head coach Ong Kim Swee (the Malaysian side plays in the S.League) and finished second to champion Tampines Rovers) had this to say about the Philippines: “I have been impressed with the Philippines in group stages that I actually picked them to be in the finals. But give due credit to Singapore. They managed a good result in the Philippines and now the advantage is with them. But the Philippines is a tactically sound team that can defeat them.”
The Philippines will have its hands full against Singapore’s forward and secondary line that threatened greatly with Duric dangerous as a poacher and in the air, Shahril Ishak frightening when he gets within a few meters of the box, and with set piece specialist Shaihful Esah whose deliveries have been on target.
Singapore has been deadly on the wings. Mustafic has been solid for Singapore in a holding midfield position where they switch to a stopper-sweeper formation in an attempt to deal with the Azkals’ speed.
But the Azkals are no slouch on the offensive end. They have been in this tournament a second half team. As team manager Dan Palami opened up yesterday, there have been discussions with the coaching staff about bringing their second half intensity to the first half where a crucial first goal is massively important given how difficult it has been to score in their head-to-head match-ups.
The Azkals have to find a way to support Phil Younghusband on the attack and play in the same manner as they did in the 2-0 win over Myanmar that solidified their semifinals entrance.
If Reichelt can threaten on the left and James Younghusband play like he did in the Cebu match where he was highly influential then the Philippines can put the Lions on their heels. The onus is on the Azkals’ midfield to make their presence felt right away because that will decrease the pressure on their back four and Ed Sacapaño.
The Philippines has shown a penchant for scoring late goals but we aren’t the type that is good in coming back. A first and early goal is a must if the finals dreams are to be achieved.
The substitutions are also crucial. You do not want to bring a sub in too early in the event that the match goes into extra time because fresh legs can make a difference. But then again, one has to plugs any gaps lest they be exploited.
That means both Avramovic and Weiss will have to do their best coaching today if they want to move on.
Expect both teams to push so as not to send this into extra time or even in penalties.
However, the pressure is on Singapore and not the Philippines.