This appears in the Monday, December 8, 2014 edition of the Business Mirror.
That home match vs. Thailand
by rick olivares
For the second consecutive Suzuki Cup home match, the Philippine Men’s National Team came away without a win against its foe; settling for a scoreless draw this time against Thailand. Two years ago, it was another goalless affair on home soil against Singapore. However the lads from the Lion State parlayed that into a 1-nil win in their return to their home field of Jalan Besar; a win that propelled them to their fourth regional championship.
A scoreless draw is still good because at least the Filipinos did not concede. I really hate this away goals rule that gives a visiting team plus-one advantage per goal. Why doesn’t FIFA come up with a two-point goal if one scores from the midfield line and three-points if one scores from his own backfield. A goal is a goal no plus whatever.
However, we can debate FIFA’s rules again later. The Philippines missed an excellent opportunity to bury Thailand and put themselves in an excellent position to advance to the finals of the biannual competition. And to think Thailand was down to 10 men in the last 20 or so minutes of the match when forward Adisak Kraisorn was meted with a straight red card for striking Filipino defender Amani Aguinaldo.
The draw puts the Philippines at a 1-2-1 record for competitive – not counting the friendlies -- home matches this 2014 (including the Cebu match with Malaysia earlier in the calendar year).
In competitive away matches, the PMNT has only defeated one home side in the Maldives in Male in the AFC Challenge Cup. We lost to Vietnam in the group stages of the Suzuki Cup. Now, the Philippines has to play the most important game in its history when it goes to the Rajamangala Stadium for the second leg of this semifinals match.
There are however a couple of things that augur well for the Filipinos.
The Philippines took a point from Thailand.
Sure it ended in a scoreless draw but would you believe that the Philippines took a point from Thailand for the first time in over four decades? When it’s game time and not a friendly, the Philippines showed they could hang with some of the region’s best. Now they have their confidence up, hopefully, the Filipinos will play better in the do-or-die second leg.
Thailand will be two men down at the Rajamangala.
Thailand will be missing forwards Kraisorn and Kirati Keawsombut to suspension and injury for their home match. That somewhat dulls their attacking edge. However, they still have the creative Charyl Chappuis who seems to find a way to get within striking distance for a shot or a pass.
They rediscovered their attacking side.
Sorely missing against Vietnam that harried them almost non-stop, the local boys took the fight to Thailand. The attack is so much better and pleasing to the eye. There is no crisis in confidence especially since the first leg is still technically a good result.
To balance things out, here’s what the PMNT needs to work on:
Shoring up that central midfield attack.
We have given opponents fits from the left and right flank. The problem is the central midfield play where someone needs to slip those through balls and attack from the middle. That used to be Stephan Schrock’s specialty. But he’s not on this team. Chris Greatwich used to spray those passes to teammates on the wings from that spot but he isn’t playing much. Am not crazy about Phil Younghusband bringing up that ball from there because he tends to lose the ball the longer he dribbles but the Philippines’ all-time leading scorer can be deadly in finding teammates. Maybe a little spacing and line adjustments could help.
Decision making in the final third.
Far too many missed chances for the Filipinos. The Thais probably rue their selection that left out some fearsome attackers. But what they can do is play solid defense. Their back four was pretty good as was their keeper Kawin Thammasatchanan. Phil should have scored on that breakaway. Martin Steuble should have been more resolute in firing away from deep right instead of lofting an ambitious attempt at Kawin.
As good as the passing is, on a few occasions, some players dribbled a little too much and right into trouble. Pass and go. Move into space as what the coach has been preaching.
Plugging that defensive hold from the right midfield.
In the first 15 or so minutes of the second half, Thailand made five runs from the left side (our right side). On some occasions, Aguinaldo and Rob Gier dealt with them, but Kiatisuk Senamuang’s boys were able to fire away from inside the box.
That left was where the Thais launched a lot of their raids. In the middle, Manny Ott, Phil and the others were able to turn them back. On their right, Daisuke Sato was a menace to them. So it is imperative that the hole on the Thailand’s left be slammed shut.
The match of Wednesday, December 10, will be the most important match in the national team’s history. For sure, Thailand will not make it easy and I expect them to be even more physical on that day. The Philippines knows they cannot play like they did against Vietnam.
If the Philippines is going to take the next step in its evolution, then Wednesday is the day.