My post game thoughts on the Philippines' blowout of Macau.
Denis Wolf has finally shown us he is no sheep in wolf's clothing. The big striker was under pressure going into this match to perform. Wolf wasted chance after chance in the Guam friendly in Bacolod. Then he fired blanks in the Chicago Inferno friendly and sprayed shots in the South East Asian tour. Last Tuesday he was tentative and ineffective. But now the memories of all those misses have been banished for good. Wolf was lethal on Thursday against an overmatched Macau squad. He showed speed and control in his 22nd minute strike, racing past the defense and poking it through Ho Man Fai's gloves. The second goal showed that he can score them ugly too, blasting into the net during a goalmouth scramble. The third, off a defensive error, was a display of composure in front of goal that had been lacking lately.
Wolf has now tallied four international goals, tying him in my unofficial list of active Azkals with Aly Borromeo and Freddy Gonzalez (yes THAT Freddy Gonzalez.) Now the mark of 7 goals, jointly held by James Younghusband and Angel Guirado, is within reach.
The hat trick is the first Azkal three-bomb since Ian Araneta managed the feat against East Timor in 2010 Suzuki Cup qualifying, and it gives a massive boost to the squad going into Saturday.
Wolf was also classy in his post-match interview with TJ Manotoc, saying "without my teammates I am nothing. I had good passes from Omphroy and Reichelt."
The question is now this: can Wolf be this ruthless on Saturday against a better team, and how about against the likes of Thailand and Vietnam come November?
Demit Omphroy and Patrick Reichelt continued to shine. Omphroy set up Wolf's third goal and was a trooper all night long. Weiss wisely rested him for the last quarter of the match with the game in hand early. Ditto for Chieffy Caligdong, who was taken out early as well.
Patrick Reichelt not only scored on a lovely volley off an assist by OJ Porteria, but he also delivered a beautiful long vertical pass in the 78th minute that nearly resulted in another strike. Four minutes later he narrowly missed a left-footed shot. His confidence must be sky-high by this point, and with two goals he can catch Reichelt for the Golden Boot award.
Weiss said in the post game press con that he might play Reichelt up top to partner with Wolf. That would free up the right wing position for Misagh Bahadoran, who looked dangerous with some trademark mazy runs. He also struck the post with eight minutes to play.
Omphroy and Reichelt helped the Azkals maintain a vise-like grip on the center of the park, which is why they suffocated the Macanese to oblivion.
Great win, but it should have been expected. This is Macau, folks. FIFA thinks 199 other national teams should beat them. Only Brunei Darussalam, Anguilla, Mauritania, Timor-Leste, Bhutan, Montserrat, San Marino, and Turks and Caicos are ranked lower. I thought Ricardo Torrao and Iuri Capelo would add some quality to their midfield but neither was influential. The team was also not internationally-fit. Capelo admitted as much in the post game press con, saying that the team was not used to playing on one day's rest. The Philippines, ranked 50 places ahead, really should take a team like this to the woodshed, especially at home.
Today's Azkals could be called Global FC and Friends. There were Global players all over the park on Thursday. Omphroy, Uy, Christiaens, Marwin Angeles, Marvin Angeles, Wolf, Reichelt, De Murga, and Bahadoran all play for Dan Palami's team. Another Globie, Dave Basa, was on the bench. All five goals came from Global players.
Right now we are following the lead of Hong Kong, whose national XI was until recently dominated by one club, South China.
I would prefer that the national team was more representative of all of the clubs in the UFL, but we must at the same time thank Palami for luring these talents into our local league.
One thing is certain though: with so many Azkals on the Global roster, Palami may have a tough time fielding a competitive squad for the upcoming UFL Cup, since so many of their players will be on NT duty during the competition.
Chinese Taipei is brimming with confidence and should not be taken lightly. The Chinese Taipei team rebounded from a lackluster 2-2 draw versus Macau on Tuesday with a well-deserved 2-0 victory over Guam in the first game. They were very clearly the better team, with the twins Lo Chi An and Lo Chi En both impressing with their touch and pace. Time and time and again it has been proven that the Transitive Property of Equality does not apply in Football, and just because they drew a team that we whacked 5-0 doesn't mean they will fall by a similar scoreline. A player to watch for Chinese Taipei is holding mid Lee Pin Hsien, who threaded a gorgeous through-ball that set up Lo Chi An's goal. Taipei is significantly bigger than Macau, which also helps their cause.
The Ultras Filipinas cheering squad injected a huge dose of energy into the grandstand. These blokes, decked out in scarves and with shirts over their faces in true hooligan fashion, were in fine voice Thursday night, leading the grandstand in cheering. The more official group, the Kaholeros, commanded the east stand. The Ultras Filipinas allegedly include a few Ultras Kaya members, and it showed. They were paid the ultimate compliment last night when PFF volunteer Craig Burrows received a text message from an English friend asking who those Englishmen were cheering in the background. Props to this bunch.
Attendance was better, but still not enough. Please, if you are reading this, RT and share on Facebook that we all need to play Twelfth Man on Saturday. We need a big and boisterous crowd to win this title. The white center bleachers were better populated on Thursday than on Tuesday, but there were still far too many invisible Azkals fans all over the place. Once again, let everyone know that bleachers are just P50 (plus three pesos in Ticketworld) and students get a 50% discount.
You can follow Bob Guerrero on Twitter @bhobg333.