The Azkals gained a measure of redemption by trouncing Singapore 2-0 with goals from captain Chieffy Caligdong and star striker Phil Younghusband. Here are five things we learned from the game:
1. Schrock is a man playing against boys
Clearly head and shoulders above everyone else, Stephan Schrock showed the whole of Southeast Asia why he is playing in the Bundesliga. Obviously the best player on the pitch, the Hoffenheim standout delivered quality pass after quality pass, whilst at the same time not neglecting his defensive duties by putting in his fair share of tackles.
Schrock took absolute control of the midfield, and delivered the assist for Phil Younghusband’s goal.
It is a massive understatement to state that the likes of Phil and Paul Mulders benefit from playing with such a wonderful player. Personally, he is the clear choice for man of the match.
It is now up to the Azkals to exert all efforts to get him for 2012 Suzuki Cup, even if it means having him sent off in the Bundesliga game before the Suzuki Cup. I may only be half joking in that statement.
2. It is only a friendly game.
We should celebrate the Azkals’ impressive 2-0 victory over our potential semi-final opponents in this year’s Suzuki Cup, but we should not get carried away.
Last I checked, the 2-0 win over Singapore was a friendly match between two countries with an eye for a much bigger prize — bragging rights in Southeast Asia’s premier football cup.
The Azkals should follow-up this win with a similarly emphatic performance against Laos, while at the same time give the chance to the new guys to get in that much needed gametime.
Patrick Reichelt, Anto Gonzales and OJ Porteria for instance, could be given more minutes, just to see how they respond to link up with their teammates. Now is the perfect chance to try them out. What good does zooming up in the FIFA rankings do for the team if we miss the chance to blood in the new players?
3. At the same time, the game is not just a friendly.
It is a statement of intent, perhaps a massive statement from the Azkals. Going to Singapore and comprehensively beating the Lion City 2-0 is no mean feat.
This result sends a strong message to the rest of Southeast Asia: the Azkals mean business and the result of the 2010 Suzuki Cup was no fluke.
Make no mistake, other countries have the Azkals in their sights, and it would come as no surprise if Thailand and Indonesia sent scouts to watch the game vs Singapore.
No one doubts the capabilities of the Azkals now. It is up to the team to live up to these ever-increasing expectations.
4. Global FC players have a big role to play for the Azkals.
One of Azkals’ manager Dan Palami’s objectives in his recruitment drive for Global FC players is that it paves the way for them to play together regularly and be available for Azkals games, since they will now be based here in the Philippines.
Misagh Bahadoran, Denis Wolf, and Patrick Reichelt all came off the bench in the game against Singapore.
It may be safe to presume that the three aforementioned players, together with Angel Guirado, present the offensive players that Coach Weiss will most likely turn to when the starting eleven is not up to task.
Global FC also count Azkals Carli de Murga and Jeff Christiaens amongst its ranks. Both play attacking roles for Global in the UFL, but they have been converted to fullbacks for the national team. So far, their standout performances have not left fans longing for Anton del Rosario and Ray Jonsson.
5. The Azkals may have found their first choice starting eleven.
Roland Mueller has been excellent between the posts when he plays for the Azkals, but Neil Etheridge is still the undisputed number one for the country.
Jason Sabio, backed by a string of excellent performances for Kaya and country, has played his way to the starting eleven. The same can be said for Carli de Murga.
Rob Gier and his high football IQ will always be the first names on Weiss’ team sheet.
Jerry Lucena or Juani Guirado will be set to man the defensive midfield role; highly-rated Marwin Angeles will be a superb option off the bench. Chieffy Caligdong and James Younghusband look set to give the Azkals width, despite challenges from Misagh and Reichelt, respectively.
Stephan Schrock will be the very first name on the list, if he’s available. Nowadays, it seems more and more like a big “if”. IF he isn’t available, Paul Mulders looks set to fill in the attacking midfield role. Mulders’ link-up play with Phil Younghusband showed flashes of promise in the game against Cambodia.
After missing the Azkals’ US training camp due to prior commitments, there were barely discernible rumblings in certain sectors to do away with the former Chelsea man. Frankly, that has to be the most idiotic idea ever breached. Phil is not only an accomplished international goalscorer, but his very presence also strikes fear in many an opponent’s heart.
The Christiaens at left back experiment in the US training camp has led to him being granted the slot for the Southeast Asian tour. However, it will be Ray Jonsson who will be most likely given the start.
There are still more than two months to go until the big tournament. The upcoming Peace Cup will give us a clearer picture into the mind of Coach Weiss.
Ryan Fenix is InterAKTV’s resident football analyst. His football column Rampaging Fullback appears exclusively on the site. He runs the football blog The Prawn Sandwich Brigade and covers football for AKTV on IBC. For more football discussion, follow him on Twitter.