LAST Thursday, I tuned in to the Philippines vs. Uzbekistan match hoping that the Azkals wouldn’t lose that bad against a team that humiliated us at home, 5-1. Stephen Schrock and Phil Younghusband were not in the lineup, as well as veterans like Rob Gier and Jerry Lucena who have retired from international football.
So I wasn’t hopeful of seeing a great match from the Philippines and in fact, I decided at the last minute to tell my son Mico--who get so disappointed everytime the Philippines loses---to watch the game with me.
And it was really great that I changed my mind and my son got to see one of the greatest matches of the Philippine team in recent years, albeit up until that goal because the darn power in Moalboal got cut off.
“I really like their missed opportunities Daddy,” Mico told me after yet another misfire from Uzbekistan.
When we were down to 10 men, I had to explain to my son that while the replay showed it wasn’t an offense worthy of a red card, the referee’s decision is always final.
“So now we are 4-4-1 or 4-3-2?” he asked. Lately, he’s been experimenting on formations, thanks to one of the games he downloaded on his tab and has been asking me a lot of questions like, “Why is the goalkeeper not part of the formation?”
And last Thursday, the goalkeeper was the most important part of the team and I’m pretty sure the home fans who saw Neil Etheridge were reminded of him when they saw the latest Superman movie.
Neil was a monster between the sticks. He was so good that my son got to asking, “Messi vs. Etheridge, or Ronaldo vs. Etheridge, who will win?”
That inspired play made up for his lackluster showing the first time around, when he let in a couple of silly goals. There was that one one-handed parry Neil had that had the ball going off 90 degrees to the side, while his arm didn’t budge an inch.
Superman Neil sure was the man of the match that day. We lost, but with that silly red card by OJ Porteria early, we rarely had chances. The best being that by Patrick Reichelt in the first half.
On Tuesday against North Korea, we won’t be short-handed and after that inspired game, I am hopeful for a positive result, so we can lock that AFC Cup spot. So, go to the Rizal Memorial Stadium if you can, and if you can’t, organize viewing parties in your provinces so you can watch this match with fellow fans.
In Cebu, let’s pack Raphael’s Sports bar and let’s all wear red, for victory.