By Jerome S. Galunan Jr.
THE 2-1 setback suffered by the Philippine Men’s Football National Team-Azkals last Thursday night and the 3-nil upset on an away game last Saturday in the hands of the much stronger Kuwait-Al Azraq squad only justified that the nationals are less prepared in the bid for the 2014 World Cup.
For a team with players playing together in less than a year, expectation should not be that high, compared to a squad that has bonded for several years. This was clearly seen during the match between the Azkals and Azraq.
The lack of familiarization among the Azkals has caused the squad’s numerous unsuccessful run during the match.
These were the observations of PFF-Suzuki U23 National Cup champion Negros-Ceres Team assistant coach Ramon Janeo.
He said that the Azkals lacked communication during the match.
“Hindi nila masyado kilala ang isa’t isa. Ito marahil ay dahil sa maiksing panahon sa pagbuo ng team,” Janeo theorized.
“So dapat ang gawin ng Philippine Football Federation is to plan a long term team preparation. Hindi ‘yong isang buwan na lang ang game o tournament, doon pa lang tayo mag-start sa pagbuo ng team,” Janeo stressed.
But Janeo commended the efforts of the Azkals during the Thursday match. “With regard to the team’s performance, ok naman kahit natalo because they played hard together,” he said.
On the other hand, Azkals media officer Rick Olivares disclosed that national team head coach Michael Weiss admitted during the post-game press conference that they have given Kuwait lots of space to score. Likewise, they were also concerned with Kuwait’s speed all series long.
Olivares further shared Weiss’ notes that if Phil Younghusband scored early and if Angel Guirado nailed that header, that would have been a very big boost. But they were unable to finish properly.
However, if Weiss was sparing in his praise, Kuwait was more effusive, Olivares said.
He reiterated that Kuwati forward Hamad Al-Enezi said that if the Azkals keep what they are doing, the Filipinos will be an Asian power in two or maybe four years. He said that the Azkals have the skills and the players and only need to keep them together.
The media officer also added that Kuwait coach Goran Tefugdzic admitted that it was a challenge playing the Philippines, adding, that the nationals gave them trouble in both Legs but their experience brought them to victory.
As of the moment, the focus of the national team will be the Under-23 squad which will compete in the Southeast Asian Games this coming November in Indonesia and the next phase of the AFC Challenge Cup.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 30, 2011.