1.5 and that little qualifying match.

There are a few things  where 1.5 appears. That includes Coca-Cola bottles, car engines, and my UP course cards. Not in football and certainly not involving away goals.

Let me try to explain it the best way I can. In football, there are stages where teams play in a home-and-away format (a game each in the teams’ home turfs), and it is in this format that the away goals rule applies. Essentially, it is a tie-breaker, wherein every goal that a team scores in its opponent’s home ground counts as double, in the event that the aggregate score (total scores of both games added together) is equal. No half-points, no need to add fractions.

(My beef with a certain “journalist” is that after it was pointed out to her that she was feeding the wrong information to her Twitter followers, she was very dismissive about it. What is wrong with admitting that you were wrong? To save face? Clearly, this woman is in a position to educate people about football, but honestly, which self-respecting “journalist” would cover the sport and not bother to read its rules. No, she just has to set an example of being dismissive. Hubris much.)

Now onto that little qualifying match that marks the start of a long journey to Brazil in 2014.

In the lead-up to this match, we learn that Sri Lanka had several of its national team players suspended for match-fixing and that this team barely had two weeks to prepare for this match. Given that situation, it is not far off to assume that they would assume a highly defensive strategy, attempting to prevent the Philippines from scoring. This was particularly evident in the first half of the match, where they pretty much succeeded in frustrating the PHL NT. I recall there was a fracas that led to several yellow cards, and this pretty much disrupted whatever the PHL NT had going on for them.

(My man *snort*) Phil Younghusband had a couple of opportunities to score, but was not able to finish. I heard he was injured prior to the match. So, will he play on Sunday and should I wear his shirt?

I still don’t get the reason why Paul Mulders was fielded as a left back, when he is a right-footed attacking midfielder. I do remember Sri Lanka attacking more on his side than on Anton del Rosario’s, and there was even an instance when Chieffy Caligdong tracked all the way back to help in defense because Mulders could not yet curb his attacking tendencies and was nowhere near where he was supposed to be. To his credit, Mulders settled into his role in the second half.

So yes, Sri Lanka scored a goal toward the end of the first half, off a direct free kick that was slightly deflected off Rob Gier as he attempted to clear it. I think this is the first time I saw a game of PHL NT that Gier played and I did not have the level of confidence in the back four that I normally have (reckon Jonsson missing is the reason why). The Philippines equalized a few minutes into the second half, thanks to Nate Burkey. But of course, Chieffy Caligdong played a key role in that sequence—ah, Chieffy, where would this NT be without you?

As for Angel Guirado Aldeguer, I do think his frustrations got the best of him in the first half, and in the second half, it felt like I was watching him visibly struggle. He’s definitely playing hurt, as he’s not in his usual all-over-the-pitch-taking-on-the-entire-opposition self.

Now let’s dedicate the last paragraph to Stephan Schröck. The guy was a revelation in this match, and he was able to single-handedly slice the Sri Lankan defense, creating much needed opportunities. However, there’s still room for improvement, as when he’s not breaking down the opposition’s defense, he still loses the ball in midfield. Schröck and Manuel Ott also need to improve their cohesion with Caligdong and James Younghusband (understandably so). I’d name Schröck my MOTM, but with reservations, but if you compare his performance with the rest of the team, he’s clearly distinguished himself from the other 10 in this match.

Now let’s go back to that 1.5 points. There’s no need to get fixated over it, as we still ought to aim for a win. A lesson learned once more in this match: our opponents scouted us well, and we seem to have underestimated them. That said, the optimism for Sunday’s match remains high.

See you at Rizal Memorial Stadium on Sunday, chicos.

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