The Philippines may have began their AFC Asian Cup 2019 debut campaign with a 1-0 loss. Despite that, the result actually surpassed expectations, as the Azkals proved the naysayers, doubters and oddsmakers – who predicted a lopsided win for the superior South Koreans – wrong.
Behind that result was a resolute defending by Sven-Goran Eriksson’s men. This aspect makes this discussion focus on the defence, namely the back four consisting of Luke Woodland, Alvaro Silva, Stephan Palla, Daisuke Sato and goalkeeper Michael Falkesgaard.
An almost impenetrable backline
The Azkals’ defence has been tested for most of the match. Even with most of the Azkals retreating in their own half for the most part, the back four still had a very busy day. But in spite of that and the one-sided predictions, the Philippine backline were able to hold fast for the most part.
First up is Stephan Palla, who was able to shine on the clearances department as he was able to clear more than a handful of threatening deliveries by the opposition.
Next is Daisuke Sato, who had been a constant defensive live-wire and a bridge as well towards mounting a counter-attack from the left part of the pitch. He also was able to pull off [maybe] a clean tackle or two.
For Luke Woodland, most of his contributions came from some timely blocks that he was able to pull-off denying some possible goal-bound shots in favour of the Taeguk Warriors. His excellent positioning in some of those dangerous plays helped the Azkals keep themselves well in the match.
Goalkeeper Michael Falkesgaard meanwhile was able to thwart almost all of maybe a handful of shots he faced from the Taeguk Warriors, save for one – Hwang Ui-jo’s 67th minute winning goal.
Lastly, Alvaro Silva who most definitely was the man of the match – with striker Javier Patino probably an honourable mention – came up with a stellar performance as he won a good amount (more than a handful for sure) of duels he has encountered. Aside from that, Alvaro definitely produced the most number of timely clearances. Alas, his mistimed sliding attempt to intervene with Hwang Hee-chan’s delivery led to the winning goal.
But an almost bonus contribution on the other end, Alvaro Silva came close to producing the equaliser for the Azkals in the 79th minute, if only he was able to come up with a better contact with the ball via a header off a corner-kick from substitute winger Iain Ramsay.
Disciplined defending at a high order
Despite numerous amount of attempts and sustained pressure from the South Koreans, the Philippines’ defence stood firmly while showing maybe the highest level of discipline and constraint that the team were able to recently, as no defender suffered a booking in the course of the whole match.
Now that’s a boon for the squad as the starting defenders carry no cautions heading into another daunting assignment against current Group C leaders China on Friday, January 11, in Abu Dhabi.
Photo credits: The Azkals Facebook Page