Despite loss, Azkals show potential

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Saturday, March 8, 2014


I KNOW it’s bad form to talk about former national team coach Michael Weiss, but you just can’t help draw comparisons after seeing the first two games of the national team under coach Thomas Dooley.

Coach Weiss, a regular Cebu visitor, once said that “I don’t think if you’d get Arsene Wenger he could have done better. You talk about tiki-taka..tiki-taka...but I have to work with what I have.”

Criticisms about how the team played under Weiss were always there, but it seemed to have been swept under because we were chalking up all those wins.

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I know one critic, who as early as the 2011 World Cup qualifiers, was already pointing the same points and questions about the team critics had last year. Curiously, he said he’d just shut up as long as we were winning. And when the coaching change happened, boy, did he rant a long “I-told-you-so!” post on social media.

Tiki-taka, the short game, which the former coach said wasn’t the best option for us, hence the reliance on the long ball.

Tiki-taka, the Philippine version, in full display against Azerbaijan.

Composed buildup from the back-four, not that let’s-hope-the-strikers-are-quick-enough-to-get-this-long ball.

Naa raman diay na! That was my first thought when in a play that was started by Patrick Deyto ended up with the team getting a soft shot. We can play this way. Let’s keep it this way.

Tira pataka is a Cebuano term we used to describe a billiard shot when a player, who gets snookered and after some time, fails to find an escape, will just let the cue ball “look for his shot.” I’ve also overheard one coach used that term to admonish a defender who kept sending long balls.

For young kids who get taught by their age group coaches to play the passing game and see the national team resort to things their coaches tell them not too, it’s a welcome change.

Tiki-taka, not tira pataka. What a wonderful change.

Yes we lost, but the team played so beautifully that sometimes, I had to remind myself that we were playing a European side ranked No. 93.

Still, as expected, there were hiccups, which showed the lack of time the players spent on the field together. During one play, Phil had the ball and was looking for Javier Patino. The Buriram striker ran inside but Phil passed wide, expecting Javier to go there. Things like that don’t happen with those who regularly play together.

And for us, Javier and Phil in synch is what we need to get those goals against sides like Azerbaijan.
Another thing, Stephen Schrock is no doubt our best individual player, but sometimes, he tends to do too much. He had a lovely pin-point pass to Phil, whose touch unfortunately was too strong, but late in the match, he had the ball inside the box with two or three teammates but held on it far too long.

The target in the Challenge Cup is to win it all and the two friendlies showed that it’s not farfetched. The only problem now for Coach Dooley is one that Coach Weiss also faced--are we going to have our Challenge Cup lineup as often as need in all the friendlies prior the tournament?

CEBU VISIT. I asked Dan Palami when he would be taking Coach Thomas Dooley for a Cebu visit and he said he’s open to the idea of dropping by in one of the Aboitiz Cup finals.

Who knows? Coach Dooley may see a player or two he’d recommend to the national youth team? Or he can check what the local FA is doing in terms of grass roots development and offer a few inputs.

And of course, Dan knows how the local officers would roll out the red carpet every time the senior national team coach visits.

FOOTNOTE ON FOOTNOTE. Coach Michael Weiss got fired and it wasn’t interesting enough to make Sun.Star Cebu’s football columnist Noel S. Villaflor end his hiatus. Those two games were that remarkable that Noel wrote a column on each.
(mikelimpag@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 08, 2014.

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