They’ve thrown everything on the line for a chance to break the group A wide open and the Philippine Azkals are heading into their next road game in Dubai against Syria with a smile on their faces.
In a tough away game in Male, the Philippines overcame the home side and won via two goals to one after goals from Iain Ramsay and John Patrick-Strauss went past Mohamed Faisal to seal the victory away from home.
However, it was never going to be an easy game for the Azkals against the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup semifinalists as they play very physical to the point of almost hurting the opposition with some intent. Let’s now take a look how well the Azkals performed in this match.
1) Started off slow but imposed their will in the second half
The starting 11 who featured in this match looks very similar to what they had against China PR where they got the historic draw at the Panaad Parks and Stadium.
The only difference was that Martin Steuble sat out this match due to accumulated yellow cards and in his place came Luke Woodland. Nevertheless, the same mentality and tactics were there for Scott Cooper and his wards.
They started out defending as the home side went on to go for an early goal but their attempts have gone begging. Slowly but surely, they got their composure in the match and was able to string together some quick passes.
When the Azkals found their footing in the second half thanks to a staggering goal from Ramsay, they didn’t look back and went on to give the opposition more headache.
Further down the road, after Strauss bagged in the second goal for the Azkals, they did not show any signs of slowing down and wanted to go for more. The late consolation goal from the Maldives didn’t even dampen their morale as they knew, everyone’s satisfied with what they’ve done away from home.
2) Home away from home
Whenever the Azkals play on the road, it is always expected that there will be quite a good turn out from our Kababayans overseas and this game was no different.
In a meeting with some of the people from the media last November 11, 2019, Azkals team manager Dan Palami mentioned that they’ve spoken to the Consulate of the Philippines in the Maldives to ask for support from the OFWs there and the response was fantastic.
The Filipinos flocked the Maldives National Football Stadium hoping for a win to give them something to be proud of and the Azkals did not disappoint. After the final whistle has been blown, the Philippines National Football Team went off the pitch to the applause of the crowd.
It will be another thing we will expect once they fly out to Dubai as they will be facing a tough Syrian side who just came off a 2-1 victory over China PR. We’re already seeing Filipinos out there asking how they can get tickets to the match on November 19.
3) The rise of John-Patrick Strauss
We’ve followed this lad a lot because we knew he’ll be a force to be reckoned with whenever he suits up for the national team and he proved what he’s worth.
John-Patrick Strauss took on a pivotal role in this match as he paired up with the team captain Stephan Schröck in the middle of the park to provide the chances for Mark Hartmann or to our streaky wingers Patrick Reichelt and Ramsay.
He then proved to be worthy of working with Schröcky in the middle as on the 52nd minute of the match, he opened the doors for Ramsay as he chested the ball down for Ramsay to pounce on and attack the opposition from a counter to score the first goal of the match.
He then listed his name on the scoresheet on the 68th minute which proved to be the decisive goal of the match as he went on for the spoils of the attempt from Luke Woodland and Reichelt.
A year ago, we’ve seen a young kid from Germany, plying his trades with Erzgebirge Aue, a club fighting their way into the top-flight of German football, who impressed us with his flashy technique and vision.
Now, we just witnessed him blossom into a real threat in the middle of the pitch and a true warrior. On the 24th minute, Strauss might’ve been hit with an elbow which caused him to bleed and had to play the match with his head all wrapped up.
However, it did not stop him from delivering for his country in this crucial away match which resulted in him getting a goal and assist. We salute you, tiger.
4) Silent but deadly
Across the entire 90 minutes, the fans only focused on the two goals we scored, how well we go for the attack and how tough we are in defending. However, another guy who deserves much of the plaudits is their team captain, the alpha male himself, Stephan Schröck.
With his trickery with the ball as well as his toughness on the pitch, it freed up the spaces for his teammates to go for the attack. Also, whenever he saw a pocket of space in the Maldivian defence, he went on to attack it which rattled the home side a bit more.
All of these are coming from a stint of a tight schedule. Before he flew to Male, he came from Vietnam after receiving his award as part of the ASEAN Best XI.
He then flew back to the country to help his club, Ceres-Negros FC, in their quest for a cup double as they went on to win via four goals to three over Stallion Laguna FC. He got himself a brace to lift the three-time Philippines Football League champs from the grave and into the final of the 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara.
We thought he’ll be rested for this game but Scott Cooper opted to pair him up with Strauss in the middle which gave us a quite a number of possession in the middle of the park.
Heading into the match against Syria in Dubai, Schröck believes they can win this time against the current leaders in group A.
“The spirit is very good at the moment. Of course, if you are level on points with China, who would’ve thought this and now with a good result against Syria, we can go out for the hunt for something even bigger,” said the team captain.
He then followed by saying, “We’re looking to learn from our mistakes and the next game will prove that we have learned.”
Now that they are heading into a very tough match, all the more reason that we need to see more of what he’s done in this game against the Maldives if we are to dream of progressing towards the next stage of the competition.
5) A must-win game in Dubai
As they have pushed themselves almost to the limit in their match against the Maldives, they head into a tougher match to complete the task away from home and it will be against Syria.
Here’s what he has to say about the defeat.
“We could beat weaker opponents like Maldives and Guam, but when we encountered stronger teams like the Philippines and Syria, we could not play our own football.”
With a statement like that coming from a top-calibre coach who once led Italy to win the 2006 FIFA World Cup, big things are to be expected from the Azkals in their second meeting in the group stages against Syria.
A win over the ranked 83 in the world could mean a lot for the Philippines. For one, we will break group A wide open as we have a chance to go ahead of China before the next international window.
Another thing is that the Philippines will be facing Guam at home on the 26th of March before their away game in Guangzhou which could possibly seal the fate for both nations in their bid to make it to the next round of the Asian qualifiers.
Simply put, cap off this two games away from home on a high note and we might have a fighting chance to face Asia’s most elite clubs in the next round qualifiers.
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