Friendly matches are meant to test the team’s mettle and for the coach to determine his best lineup, but the fact that it’s not an official competition, still can’t take away how it sucks when the team loses.
So last Friday, I trooped to the Rizal Memorial Stadium right after work to catch the 8pm friendly match of the Azkals vs. Bahrain. I got in a couple of minutes before half time, which was actually okay considering Bahrain scored the opening goal just a few minutes into the game. I witnessed their second goal, though, which opened the second half of play. The third was a minute into stoppage time, just when I thought the team would try to equalize, let alone concede a last-minute goal. I was screaming internally, furious at the turn of events, but the team had it coming. They played sluggishly, defending really sloppily at times. Maybe it was because of the unconventional lineup?
Anyway, the good thing about this is that new faces were given playing time by Coach Dooley. One of them, Mike Ott (yes, Manny Ott’s brother), even scored our lone goal. Ott replaced Kevin Ingreso at the half. Patrick Deyto was given the chance to shine at the post, while Fitch Arboleda, Paolo Bugas, and Daniel Gadia also saw some playing time although noticeably missing from the action was Stephan Schrock who watched the entire match from the bench.
(Saw and got the chance to talk briefly to him at their hotel, though!!!)
I sure hope this isn’t a sign of things to come. It’s only a month from the AFF Suzuki Cup, and the team is slated against some really tough opponents. The best time to shape up is NOW.
Tonight, the Azkals play North Korea, which they held to a scoreless draw the last time around. I won’t be there to watch the game in the stadium but they sure can expect me to be cheering from wherever I am at the time.
P.S. Thanks Kevin for the tickets and Ederlyn for accompanying me to the game! It was really fun (despite the loss) =)