Of Heartbreaks, Football, and National Pride: Thought’s on last night Azkals heartbreak

Honestly, based on our past 3 outings, we could’ve given UZB a run for their money. Hell, we could’ve pulled yet another upset in Asian football. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t our day.

Last night was heartbreaking. From start to finish, we just couldn’t get our grove together. UZB players manhandled us left and right, our passes weren’t connecting, and whats worse, the back line displayed inexperience, and miscommunication (save for a few bright spots).

Luke Woodland was bad. He wasn’t bad, skills wise, cause I’ve seen what he can do… but he was bad in the sense that he couldn’t really gel with Sato and Lucena at the back. And as a Central Defender that’s one of the main things he should be able to do. He was making mistakes left and right. Could it have been his nerves? Or lack of chemistry? Maybe. Bottomline is, he shouldn’t have started. I would’ve gone for Amani at the start, as he’s had a more solid track record relieving Gier when he needed to. Bottomline, the backline was completey unorganized.

Our midfield was left to pick up the pieces, which left our forwards with not even so much as a bark. We had, what? about 2 clear chances on goal the first 45 minutes? Our normally useful speed was left wanting, as our forwards couldn’t seem to shake off the much larger UZB players. Even Bahadoran couldn’t display the brand of agility he showed in his last 3 outings with the Azkals. I remember one instance wherin Bahadoran got a beautiful through pass from Steuble from the right flank, and instead of executing his trademark futsal-influenced agility to shake off the defender (and perhaps do a 1-2 with an openly waiting Phil), he merely ran straight down the flank, but at least was able to get a free kick from a dangerously close position. Which, however, was squandered by Steuble.

The 48-second goal didn’t help as much, either. But at least Etheridge owned up to that mistake. Though, come on, bro… an apology would’ve been awesome too.

Anyway, it was just really, really, really bad. Nothing was working, and from start to finish, we lost majority of what we had gained in the past 3 matches.

However, it’s not as if we didn’t gain anything either.

Apart from displaying a performance worthy of any World Cup appearance, Daisuke Sato showed tremendous heart. He shut down every defender that got in his way, majority of whom were bigger and taller than he was. But he showed no fear, and put his heart on his sleeve for 93 grueling minutes. While the match itself left us with a bad taste in our mouths, the one bright spot was Sato’s unwavering commitment to the beautiful game, the national team, and of course the Philippines. This kid is definitely one to look out for. Honestly, seeing the photo of him crying after the game, and being consoled by Dooley, shit… that made me cry too.

And of course, we can’t talk about last night’s game without talking about Shrocky. While he came on as a substitute for Ott (who by the way, displayed excellent command in midfield, at least with what little he could work with), Shrock nevertheless displayed dominance on the pitch, often meeting head-on the bigger and taller UZB players. He dominated the minute he was subbed in. Running all over the place, even lending a hand at defense, and making runs down the BOTH flanks when needed. The guy really showed his knowledge of football though with that amazing free-kick lob from over 30 yards out. He read it well, didn’t hesitate, and got the goal soon afterwards. Another bright spot was Dooley’s reaction to Shrocky’s goal. Let’s just say, I’m really glad their friends again.

Dooley + Schrocky: Take on Manila…There’s a show I wouldn’t mind watching.

Other bright spots in last night’s horrendous drubbing? Lucena continued to show pitch dominance using his size to usher out attempts, and help build play from the back. While it did took a while for him to get his ‘Jerry’ on, once he did, he was a beast! Ott, as mentioned earlier, displayed great maturity as well, and PHY continued to show his growing comfort in his natural position (which was ignored for a number of years playing the national team). Additionally, while mostly unused, Patino (aka Patigol) showed amazing positioning and vision on the build-ups we had. While his finishing lacked it’s usual confidence, you can’t deny that had he been on form, we could’ve easily lessened difference last night.

All in all, yes, it was a bad game. Yes, we made massive mistakes and paid for them dearly. Yes, last night showed that we still have WAYS to go. However, the beauty of Football, and sports, in general, is that there is always something we can learn from it. My criticisms would be more hurtful if no changes are made by the time we face North Korea in about a month’s time. Now these guys mean BUSINESS. We’re facing a World Cup team come October. There’s no room for Mistakes such as the ones we made last night.

Of course, take my opinions with a grain of salt. I’m neither a coach, an analyst, or even a good player… I’m just an extremely heartbroken Philippine Football fan who, come hell or high water, will never abandon the National Football Team.

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