• Poor finishing Poor finishing ails Azkalsails Azkals

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    ROMY P. MARIÑAS

    It violates grammar alright but “friendly,” an adjective, has become acceptable as a noun but, apparently, only in football and certainly not American football.

    In futbol that is played in probably nearly every country in the world, a friendly (plural: friendlies) is “generally [a]preparation for the qualifying or final stages of major tournaments” such as and where the Philippines is concerned, the Asian Cup—the continent’s premier tournament.

    The Philippine Azkals, the country’s national team, squared off with Malaysia in an international friendly on Wednesday last week and emerged empty-handed as they fired blanks against a weaker team, at least the side that engaged Misagh Bahadoran and company, in a scoreless draw at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium (RMFS) in Manila.

    The Azkals had more chances at goal against the visitors whose past four games against the Philippines that included regular or “unfriendly” matches also ended up with nothing written on the scoreboard.

    What apparently ailed the local boys is poor finishing as clearly demonstrated in the March 22 encounter.

    With four minutes added to regulation play, the Azkals had a big opportunity to win the game with an attack in the dying seconds of the second half that had been orchestrated by James Younghusband (it appeared to be Phil’s elder brother who led the attack, at least from where this corner was seated during the game).

    Thanks to good Malaysian goal­keeping, the charge was dismissed and the international friendly, at best, showed what the hosts had to brush up on in their clash with Nepal in the opener of the third round of the 2018 Asian Cup.

    (The qualifier will have been played last night, also at the RMFS).

    In group play of the Asian Cup next year, the Philippines is bracketed in Group F with Nepal, Tajikistan and Yemen.

    Ranked by FIFA higher than its group mates, it had beaten Nepal and Yemen in the past but has never met Tajikistan, although the Azkals have a winning record against two other Central Asian teams Kyrgyztan and Turkmenistan.

    Apart from inability to finish a run to the goal and drive the ball to the back of the net, the Azkals seem to be badly in need of players with the confidence to convert from their first touch of the ball that is passed or “crossed” to them in a spot where they can score.

    Now retired Chieffy Caligdong is a master of the first touch.

    You can prove us wrong by visiting any Asian football website and go, for example, to the 2011 match between the Philippines and Mongolia for the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental.

    It was a one-in-a-million nutmeg of a shot that the great Azkal from Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo delivered then.

    Incidentally, Chieffy is an assistant coach of the Philippine Azkals.

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