Philippines Azkals 1 - Sri Lanka Brave Reds 1

Live from the Sugathadasa Stadium in Sri Lanka, the Philippine Azkals are hoping to advance to the next round by subduing the Brave Reds of Sri Lanka.

Here are fun facts from the stadium:

First, it’s originally a rugby field.

And secondly, there are a lot of black birds nesting in the field?  

Come halftime, the Sri Lankans lead 1-nil after a goal from Chatura Gunarathna at the 40th minute. Before the goal, Nate Burkey just subbed for the ailing Phil Younghusband. Phil had three attempts and all of them weren’t on target. Angel Guirado, Stephan Schrock, and James Younghusband were fighting dear for possession. Aly and James scored yellow cards in the process.

By the way, it’s funny that Studio 23 hired Sri Lankan Ronnie Nathanielsz to call the action. His blood might be Sri Lankan but his heart is definitely Pinoy.

I suddenly wondered if Ronnie can still speak their language fluently.


Four minutes later, forward Chieffy Caligdong misses a free kick but new guy Burkey comes in for the putback to even up the score at 1-all. All of a sudden, the Azkals are getting more stops and more possessions. Neil Etheridge halted a Sri Lankan goal and although the Caligdong goal attempt was stopped, the Azkals are making sure to bounce back from their abysmal first half.

Borromeo gets a yellow card no thanks to his aggressive defense but at least there’s life streaming in our veins. Defense has always been our bread and butter and offense has been our problem. The entry of Guirado to the team is great though. He reminds me of Shingo from the Captain Tsubasa anime. He almost scored at the 65th and 69th minutes but that was all for naught. Guirado tried to score to at the 87th minute but the shot was wide.

The Azkals had a monumental scare when their defense was useless when a Brave Red rushed to their goal. Luckily Neil Etheridge was there to stop the goal from ever happening. After a bunch of attempts, three injured Sri Lankan players, and less than three minutes of extended play, the game ended with one point apiece.

Hopefully we can do better in our turf. My assessment is that our somewhat tolerable offensive patterns are still bugging us. Our chemistry is also an issue. Sure, we saw a bunch of new blood in Schrock, Guirado, Burkey, and Paul Mulders but whenever a batch of new blood fuse with the old, some plays become messed up. Anyway, the team has until Sunday to work out the kinks. All we know is that Sri Lanka is not that strong but will not go without a fight. Their defensive patterns have holes and the Azkals needs to exploit it. They need to properly time their passes and shots because guys like Caligdong and Phil Younghusband had a bunch of tries that went straight to the Sri Lankan goalie because most of their shots are in his reach. There were a lot of plays that could have worked but they didn’t because the Azkal midfielders are kicking the ball forward to merely advance the ball than kicking the ball forward to properly pass it to their teammate.

They also need to stop guys like Schrock, Aly Borromeo, and James Younghusband from getting a yellow card because they are too important to get sidelined. The Azkals had more corners but they also had more offsides and fouls. The home goal is a good thing but giving the Brave Reds two goals would spell out doom. The winner of this match will be a step away from representing the continent at the FIFA World Cup.

Game over.


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