Villaflor: Azkals need luck to score goals, really

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Thursday, May 22, 2014


I ASSUME that the Azkals have beaten Laos in last night’s 2014 AFC Challenge Cup match in Addu City. (If not, then the Maldives campaign has officially become a disaster of unthinkable proportions.)

Anyway, granted that the Azkals won against our Southeast Asian neighbors and regardless of the outcome of the other game in Group B, tomorrow’s match against tough-as-nails Turkmenistan at the National Football Stadium in Malé might be the Philippines’ toughest in the competition so far.

By then, both teams would have found its rhythm in the tournament, but we’re hoping that the Azkals would still be gaining momentum and peak just at the right time at the knockout stages. But first, tomorrow’s game.

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Our boys have been playing unexpectedly well since head coach Thomas Dooley took over early this year, and the nil-nil draw against higher-ranked Afghanistan, the South Asian Football Federation champions, last Tuesday was no exception.

After a tentative first half that saw both teams often stalled in midfield, the Azkals started to assert themselves over their opponents in the second half. The statistics were telling: Afghanistan managed seven attempts with only three on target, while the Azkals made 12 attempts with seven on target, attempts that stretched the Afghan goalie to his limits.

With all those chances created, it was an impressive showing by an efficient Philippine team.

There was just one problem: the Azkals could not convert those chances into goals. And without goals, playing efficiently means nothing, as far as this tournament is concerned.

Yet Dooley and his cohesive team of plucky footballers have done nothing wrong in trying to score goals: they’ve managed to penetrate formidable defenses and taken shots.

So what’s going on? Why can’t we score goals?

If you ask me, it seems the Azkals have just been unlucky against Afghanistan. The ball simply refused to end up in the back of the net. Perhaps someone put a spell on that ball, I’m not sure.

Dooley’s minor problem right now really is having an overload of talent in his roster of players. Apart from that, his system, save for some fine tuning, has worked well for the Azkals. Now if only there’s a way to summon all that much-elusive, much-needed luck, the kind that churns out goals.

Perhaps Azkals management should consider hiring a shaman for tomorrow’s match against Turkmenistan, just to be sure.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 23, 2014.

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