Physical game tested Azkals' poise: analysts

By Dennis Gasgonia,

Posted at Jun 30 2011 12:23 AM | Updated as of Jun 30 2011 10:54 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Sri Lanka's aggressive style of play affected the Philippine Azkals' game in their 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier, according to sports analysts.

Former national team member and Kaya Cignal coach Rudy del Rosario said he noticed that there was so much intensity between the 2 teams, especially during the first half.

"There were a lot of fouls... first foul started early," he said in the post game analysis of ABS-CBN's Philippine versus Sri Lanka coverage.

Rick Olivares, a sports columnist for Business Mirror, said the Azkals were planning to control the game will good ball possession.

However, he noticed that the Nationals' ball handling was thrown into disarray whenever they were agitated by the Sri Lankan defenders.

"They tend to mess it up when they play physical, making them lose their cool and we saw that earlier," said Olivares.

The Sri Lankan Brave Reds held the Azkals to a 1-1 draw during the away game that took place at the Sugathadasa Stadium in Colombo.

Tight game
Marielle Benitez, captain of Philippine Women's Football team, said both the Azkals and Brave Reds lacked organized play in the first half because of the physicality from opposing teams.

"In the first half both teams were a little bit tight, both teams were aggressive but you wouldn't really be seeing the kind of system," she said.

She said only noticed better ball handling in the second half when both teams showcased improved build-up and passing.

The Nationals played catch-up to the Sri Lankans after Chathura Gunaratne scored on a free kick in the 40th minute.

Fortunately, Filipino-American Nate Burkey, who replaced an injured Phil Younghusband, scored a header off a Chieffy Caligdong free kick on the 49th minute.

Good game by Schrock, Mulders
Former Azkals member and now Loyola Meralco Sparks player, Darren Hartmann, that Filipino-German Stephan Schrock played well by giving his teammates lots of opportunity to score.

"I think he showed intelligence. The field wasn't in the best playing surface, I think he played very direct, he played very quick," said Hartmann.

He said that an improved cohesion between Schrock and his teammates will boost the Azkals' chances in their home game on July 3 (Sunday).

"It would be nice to see him play here in the Philippines and hopefully [he'll] try to link that ball and play a little bit more football with his team mates," said Hartmann.

Benitez said Filipino-Dutch Paul Mulders also did a good job in adjusting to his new role as a left back.

"Overall, I'm impressed with his game, he was attacking he was overlapping with Chieffy Caligdong, trying to create those offense in the wing being at the left back," she said.

"He was also there stopping the crosses of the Sri Lankans," she added.

Important goal
Del Rosario, meanwhile said Burkey's struck a very important goal for the Azkals because it gave the Nationals a 2-1 aggregate lead over Sri Lanka.

He explained that each away goal by the Azkals means 2 aggregate points for the Philippines.

"Right now on aggregate we're leading 2-1. So if we go 0-draw on Sunday, then we go through [the next round]," said Del Rosario.

He, however, said it is crucial for the Azkals to stop the Sri Lankans from scoring when they play the home game at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

"If it's a 1-1 draw, then it's extra time. But if it [Sri Lanka scores] a 2-2 draw, it's Sri Lanka that goes through the next round because they'll have an aggregate of 4 points."

This is why Hartmann said it is important for the Filipino football fans to show their presence in the Azkals-Brave Reds game on Sunday.

"I hope everyone turns out to support the team," he said.