Image copyright Mark Ypon.
This was a deserving win by the home side. In my opinion, the scoreline flatters the Philippines. It was a fairly even game until a devastating two-minute spell where Jakkapan Pornsai and Anucha Kitpongsri breached Ed Sacapano's goal. Kitpongsri's composed finish after blazing past the Azkals defense was a sight to behold. Meanwhile the Philippines were left shellshocked. A promising evening had been savagely derailed in about 180 manic seconds.
Kitpongsri was a royal pain for the Azkals on his flank. He's a shifty and stealthy winger who earns my vote for Man of The Match.
But Thailand could have inflicted even more damage. Datsakorn Thonglao was horribly unmarked in front of goal in the 25th but he pulled his shot wide. Teerasil Dangda was off-target a minute before the half. In the 55th minute Kitpongsri, after a few dizzying stepovers, served up a lovely ball in the box that a Thai attacker artfully redirected the ball over his head to a waiting team mate in the left wing. The shot was wide, but it was dazzling stuff nonetheless.
The Philippines did score off a superb strike from Paul Mulders, but that was really the only threatening chance the Azkals had all night against several from the hosts.
Thailand froze us out of the game early in the second half. Employing a crisp passing game, the War Elephants hoarded possession and at times seemed to toy with the Philippine midfield. In this phase we missed Phil Younghusband, who was yanked because he seemed to suffer a bad knock on the head and could be seen on the sidelines, heavily bandaged. Only Mulders' stunning goal, completely against the run of play, jolted the game into life.
The home side showed that they are a strong team from a mature footballing nation, with players who know each other well. They are coached by Winfried Schafer, a German with an outstanding record of success.
According to the Suzuki Cup official site, the home team played a 4-5-1 formation with Dangda up top. But at times Schafer got them to play what looked like a hyperaggressive 3-4-3 in the first half. In the start of the second they reverted to a true 4-5-1, clogging the passing lanes with red shirts.
Thailand look like a good bet to win their fourth ASEAN Football Federation championship. There really isn't a great deal of shame in losing to them at home 2-1.
Meanwhile we still have some ways to go. This was a sobering reality check.
[RELATED: Thais hold off late Azkals fight]
It was a rollercoaster day for Michael Weiss. The Azkals coach went with his old reliables in his starting XI, going with many of the crew who finished third in the Challenge Cup. Angel Guirado, Paul Mulders, James Younghusband, Dennis Cagara, and Jerry Lucena played ahead of many other players who had started in recent games. It was a safe decision and it's hard to argue with it.
His substitutes combined on our only goal. The reshuffling that sent Paul Mulders up top was an audacious gamble that paid off.
But then late in the game Weiss was tossed for heaving a ball at a Thai player who he thought was simulating. It was a shocking act for a coach who usually keeps his cool. Weiss will be suspended for at least a game and it will be interesting to see which of the assistants, between Brax Bracamonte, Roroy Pinero, or Edwin Cabalida, gets the one-match head coaching stint on Tuesday.
Patrick Reichelt was a spark once again. The Azkals are insanely loaded at right wing. Aside from James Younghusband, there's Demit Omphroy, plus the dangerous Patrick Reichelt. The Fil-German shone again, with a darting run down the right flank and a perfectly weighted ball to Mulders. Reichelt has made a case to get the start on Tuesday.
[RELATED: Suzuki Cup 2012: Azkals-Thailand preview]
All is not lost. Now is not the time to press the Panic Button. We may be last in the group, but there are still paths to the semifinals. Even if we just draw on Tuesday against Vietnam we still have a chance, as long as Thailand defeats Myanmar and then proceeds to sweep aside Vietnam on Friday while we do the same to the Burmese. If we beat Vietnam, then we have a super chance of progression. A loss on Tuesday leaves us with only the slimmest of mathematical hopes.
I saw all of the second half of Vietnam-Myanmar. Myanmar looked a bit brighter in the second half, but it was very close. Vietnam's Nguyen Quang Hai nearly won it with a marvelous turn-and-shot from way out of the penalty box in the 68th minute that jarred the crossbar. Both teams look beatable, but Weiss will have to tinker with his lineup. One-suggestion: give Demit Omphroy a run-out at right back.
The Azkals have their backs against the wall. On Tuesday we will see how much character they possess.
Tomorrow I will release another blog talking about my experience of watching the game live at Rajamangala. Oh and yes, the bahag.
You can follow Bob on Twitter @bhobg333.
Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.
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