After quite a horrendous display at the Panaad Park and Stadium, the Philippine Azkals bounced back big in a game everyone expected for us to win against Guam away from home to close out the international window with three points out of possible six in our 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup Join Qualification.
With the squad looking to make up for the mistakes they’ve made in their home game against Syria, the Philippines came into Guam with one thing in mind, take home three points for a morale boost heading to next month’s encounter against Asian powerhouse China.
Goals came in from Angel Guirado, Patrick Reichelt, Stephan Schröck and John Patrick Straüss to win the match in quite a convincing matter away from home. Here are the five takeaways from the match by your Tito Jay.
1) All-out attacking shows our fangs
It seems like the shackles have been broken as the Azkals went out blazing against the opposition right from the opening whistle as the thirst in bagging those three points away from home proved to be evident.
On the seventh minute of the match, Schröck broke loose on the right side of the pitch before sending a gorgeous cross to the high-flying Guirado who then headed the ball into the back of the net.
Five minutes after the opening goal, Reichelt was the recipient of an exquisite through ball from Guirado. It was an outside-of-the-boot swing from the opening goalscorer towards the path of Kiki who just needed to tap it past the keeper after Dallas Jaye overcommits.
Heading into the second half after conceding a goal from the penalty spot courtesy of Marcus Lopez, the Azkals quickly pulled the goal back thanks to the alpha male, Schröcky.
The 33-years-old skipper dribbled past the defence before slotting it past Jaye down the bottom-left corner.
The Philippines capped off a superb performance over Guam thanks to Straüss who scored his first international goal for the three stars and a sun. Matthew Hartmann threaded a great pass towards the path of Straüss who simply placed the goal past the keeper.
It only shows that when they are given the freedom upfront, the Azkals are quite lethal in front of goal and can simply open the floodgates against any opposition they are given.
2) Despite the scoreline, we still need some better finishing
Yesterday’s performance of the Azkals was quite remarkable, however, they still need to work on one important thing, their finishing. The Azkals were presented with a remarkable amount of chances in front of goal by the Matao yet they only secured four goals.
Don’t get me wrong, Guam really put up a lot in defence to fend off the attacking Filipinos but it was the visitors’ finishing that didn’t work that’s why they only managed to score four.
For example, on the 44th minute of the match, Justin Baas intercepted the pass from the goalkeeper then gave it to Schröck. A series of one-two passes found Mark Hartmann with acres of space to take on the keeper but his shot clipped the top of the post.
Another one on the 49th minute, Straüss sent a magnificent ball insde the box for Javier Patiño who could’ve struck it the first time but decided to have some time with the ball. His efforts seemed to hit the opponent’s arms but no handball was called.
Then on the 52nd minute, he got another opening when Guirado headed the ball towards his path but his strike went wildly past the right post. Another chance from Patiño gone begging on the 54th minute as Schröck fed him a beautiful ball inside the box but his header went straight to the keeper’s gloves.
These were just some of the missed chances of the Azkals yesteday but nevertheless, it was still a fantastic showing to climb back the standings and cancel out the goal difference they got against Syria.
3) Thanks for utilizing the youth
It seems like Scott Cooper heard our plea and allowed the youngsters Justin Baas and Yrik Galantes break through the starting line-ups yesterday and gave them their first caps in the senior squad of the Philippines.
We’ve seen plenty of chances and glimmers of hope when these two were put in the field. Despite being on the field for only 36 minutes, Galantes showed he can also play with the big guns despite his tender age of 18. He was taken off for Patiño to reinforce our attack.
Baas was another revelation in midfield before he was stretchered off on the 66th minute and got replaced by Daisuke Sato. This 19-years-old midfielder/defender showed some shades of Frenkie De Jong thanks to the foundation he got from AZ Alkmaar and the Netherlands youth program.
With Cooper giving chances to these youngsters, only time can tell what they can bring to the table for our upcoming matches. All we hope is to see them more in the field.
4) Defence in shambles once more
The Matao only scored one goal against us and it was just from the penalty spot. What defence in shambles were you talking about Tito? Well, there were times that the Azkals seemed to concede a goal from an open play.
On the 24th minute of the match, Mark Chargualaf broke free on the right side of the pitch before sending a cross inside the box but his teammate was not alert to the possibility. There was another effort, this time on the other side of the pitch, but the efforts of what looks to be Marcus Lopez hit the crossbar.
There were times as well that Martin Steuble’s being left in the dust by the attackers just like what happened in their match against Syria. Only difference is that Guam wasn’t able to finish off their chances.
On a lighter side, Cooper’s decision to put Alvaro Silva back in the central defender position gave the Azkals the comfort that was not evident in their first match.
At least, Silva’s big figure in the middle gave the Matao some time to think about their next move. Let’s just hope we can see more of him against China.
5) Where’s Casambre, Deyto and Aguinaldo?
Despite the fantastic performances they had with their respective squads back in Thailand, Marco Casambre, Patrick Deyto and Amani Aguinaldo have yet to suit up for the Azkals in their efforts to reach the FIFA World Cup in Qatar and the AFC Asian Cup in China.
In their match against Syria, we were guessing if they will be brought on the latter part of the match but they didn’t make the cut. In this match, we were almost positive that we will see them have some minutes to run around the pitch but the coach thought otherwise.
In my opinion, Scott Cooper could’ve used this match against Guam to gauge what Casambre, Deyto and Aguinaldo can really bring to the table. Once touted as the future of the homegrown players of the Azkals, we’ve seen this three blossom to a more advanced player.
With the communication amongst these three homegrown players, it is inevitable that our defence could improve a bit more than what it is right now.
Nevertheless, we just have to wait what the gaffer have in his mind for our upcoming fixtures and hopefully, we can see these three in action.
BONUS: Rival Watch (China’s progress in the qualifiers)
China kicked off their joint FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup qualifiers campaign with a huge five-nil win over Maldives to go to the top of the pecking order in group A thanks to some brilliant performances from Wu Lei and their naturalized player Elkeson.
Wu Xi started off the goal-fest for the dragons with a well-placed header at the bottom right corner of the goal thanks to an exquisite cross from Chi Zhongguo.
Wu Lei then scored the second goal of the match on the 45th minute through another header. The Espanyol midfielder was at the right place and at the right time when Yang Xu sent the ball inside the box for Lei to head into the back of the net.
There were calls for offside but the referee did not even flinch and allowed the goal to stand.
On the 64th minute of the match, the referee pointed to the spot for a penalty for China as a foul was called inside the box. Yang Xu converted the spot-kick as cool as a cucumber.
Another penalty was given in favour of China after Akram Abdul Ghanee slid in late for a tackle on Wu Xi inside the box. The penalty was then slotted home by the Brazilian-born Elkeson in the 84th minute
Ai Kesen then scored his second goal for China in the 91st minute after he was left alone in the middle thanks to an incisive pass by Wu Xi.
Marcello Lippi’s wards will be coming into next match against Guam on the 10th of October with a three-game winning streak and will look to extend it to four before travelling to Panaad to face the Azkals.
Photo by: The Philippine Football Federation