Australian-born with blue Aussie blood running in his veins, he is Filipino by heart. Graeme Mackinnon, who coached football in Cebu for 14 years before jumping back to Kangaroo Country, was my former co-columnist at The Freeman. Both an expert at soccer and writing, I yield this space to Graeme…
“FIRE THE BARK UP, AZKAL FANS! Tonight, the AZKALS will attempt to go where Philippine football has never gone before. A 1 nil loss against Indonesia means that the AZKALS need to win to make the final of the Suzuki Cup. They don’t need to win during regulation time they just need to be tied. After extension if it’s still a tie then a penalty shoot-out will determine the winner. I thought the boys played well. After conceding the only goal of the game in the 34th minute they made sure not concede any late goals.
“Most sports are a game of inches. Neil Etheridge has been a revelation between the sticks. He has been the rock foundation on which the AZKALS confidence and belief have grown. The game against Indonesia was no different. He had stood tall behind an overworked AZKAL’s defense that was beginning to frustrate the Indonesians and quiet the crowd. But in the 34th minute it all changed as an innocuous curving center from the left eluded the outstretched hands of Etheridge by a matter of inches. Indonesia’s Christian Gonzalez headed the goal. In the dying stages of the game, an overhead shot from James Younghusband was cleared inches from the line by a desperate Indon defender; a matter of inches causing heartbreak twice for the AZKALS.
“AZKALS coach Simon McMenemy is correct. It’s not time to panic. The result is based over two games so it’s only half time. The AZKALS have to concentrate. First, is to get back on level terms with Indonesia by scoring first. It won’t matter at what time in the game. There are 90 minutes to do it. An early AZKAL goal would be ideal. The Indonesian’s will want a goal to calm their own nerves. The crowd will get frustrated the longer the AZKALS can hold the Indons out. A hostile home crowd can be an advantage for the AZKALS.
“I thought the AZKALS finished stronger than Indonesia with many of their players going down with cramps. There is only a three day turnaround so the Indons may have some aching muscles. One of the problems with the offense, especially as we were getting closer to full time, was the lack of peripheral vision of some players who tried to do it all. There were times when a switch of play, to stretch the Indon defense, or a through ball could have been a better option. But as they say the game is easy when you are in the sala watching it on TV. Tonight, we witness Philippine football history. Tune in to Start Sports at 7:55 p.m.