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Random Insights on a 1st Half (Malaysia v PHL)

Well, yes... This will probably be the first and only instance when a football write-up was ever written based entirely on a first half. The world over, if I may append to this rather dubious distinction.

So, like most everyone else who follows the fortunes of the Azkals, I was happily watching last night’s feed from Kuala Lumpur, having already silently thanked the gods of football that TD Ambô was seemingly skirting rather than hitting the country.

There were hardly any winds; and whatever rains fell were no more than gentle little drizzles. Yet, no more than a few minutes after the referee blew to restart the friendly international between Malaysia and the Philippines, first the cable feed went dead and moments later the power conked out to throw the entire neighbourhood into total darkness.

It is 2012. The Mayans insinuate that this is the year when the world ends. And we still get these totally annoying unscheduled power outages. (Bitter and sarcastic laughter.)

In fairness, the lights later came back on. (Applause! Applause!) But, of course, it did so soon after the match concluded. (Boo! Hiss!) How else could things have happened?

Where will we all be without our Facebook friends? Mine had sympathetically posted the final scoreline with reassurances that I did not miss an awful lot the way the second half went.

It was annoying, nonetheless; even if the first half already offered enough insights about how the rest of the match would go.

First, the Malaysians cannot hit a parked bus with a slingshot if they tried. But that is being mean. On the other hand, they tear down the left flank and set up a shot from reasonable distance almost dead center and yet shoot straight into Roland Müller's arms. So, maybe I am also being truthful.

Next, of our players, we get yet another proof that Paul Mulders is the worst traveller of all. We saw it in the World Cup eliminations and various stages of the Challenge Cup. His first game after crossing the continental divide is always out of sorts. He will, in most likelihood, be excellent on Wednesday against Indonesia; but he damn near gave me a stroke when he lost possession deep into the first half.

I wrote once that Angel Guirado does not know how to cross the ball. Apologies! Mea culpa. (Said with a staid face ala Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales when speaking to Senator Miriam Santiago.) But Angel is still no James Younghusband.

The Malaysians can pass better than we can. But then, the Malaysian FA likes to bring their players up together like the Brady Bunch. In contrast, we had four Fil-Germans, three Fil-Spaniards, one Fil-Brit, one Fil-Dutch, one Fil-American and a brilliant little Ilonggo named Chieffy Caligdong in the starting eleven.

In other words, if lack of cohesion should not be the expectation, then I do not know what should be. To my mind, thus, the draw should be viewed ‘in spite of’ rather than ‘as a consequence of’ this lack of cohesion. Football teams, after all, are not manufactured in a computer-controlled environment. Time is all our team needs.

(Will we ever get it? Logistics! Nightmare logistics!)

The right flank continues to be problematical, as it was in the Challenge Cup. Carlie de Murga delivers fairly decent crosses; but it is when he is defending against smaller fleetfooted wingers that I invariably stop breathing.

To be fair, the opposite flank was exposed on a few occasions in the first half as well. The Malaysians probably did not have enough to make full use of their own forays down the wings; but if we are serious about our ambitions in world football, then the ease with which the Malaysians exposed our flanks ought to be a concern.

Stephane Schröck is in a class by his lonesome. Then again, he is our only bona fide Bündesliga player. While it was a joy to watch him last night, another testosterone rush after his yellow had images of Sri Lanka flashing through my head. Calm down Schröcky! We need you on the pitch!

It was also comforting to have Manny Ott in the holding position. The youngster comes nowhere near Schröcky in the skills department; but then he has no need to. He does things simply and has a cool disposition that is mature for his age. Above all, I think he is among the most thinking players in the entire squad.

While we started up-tempo and could have scored inside 37 seconds, gaping holes in midfield started to appear even before the end of the half. I call these holes the Temperate-to-Tropics Syndrome; or players still adjusting to the climate. We will probably see less of these on Wednesday at the Rizal Memorial.

Did we miss Phil Younghusband? Perhaps, we did. Dennis Wolf probably toils just that wee bit more than Philly does; but the latter is also just that wee bit more clinical in the goalscoring positions that Wolfy found himself in last night.

Did we miss Neil Etheridge? No, not only because he was commentating but more because Müller has such safe hands and good judgment. Probably a better temperament, too; or, at least, we have not seen him kick any Turkmen yet.

Let me conclude this lengthy piece – on a mere first half, who would have thought – by recalling that Malaysia hosted Chelsea (oh, only the reigning European champion) and Liverpool (oh, only the 5-time European champion) last year. If memory serves me right, they lost by a solitary goal to Chelsea and scored three in a losing effort to Liverpool.

Bring on the Premiership teams, then!

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