Azkals take on North Korea in another international friendly

Posted on October 10, 2016

THE Philippine national men’s football team plays its second friendly in four days today, taking on visiting North Korea at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium (RMFS).

Mike Ott (R) made an impressive debut with the Philippine team in their friendly against Bahrain last Friday, scoring his first international goal. The Azkals play North Korea today in another friendly in preparation for the AFF Suzuki Cup in November. -- Alvin S. Go
The scheduled match at 8 p.m. is a follow-up to the Philippine Azkals’ friendly held last Friday against Bahrain where the former lost, 3-1. It is also a continuation of their buildup for the ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup in November which the country will host along with Myanmar.

Against Bahrain, the Azkals struggled to dictate the tempo of the match right from the start.

Bahraini captain Aadem Khabir scored the first goal at the four-minute mark to give his team the early 1-0 lead which it held for the rest of the opening half.

He was once again on the firing end a minute into the second half to complete his brace and a 2-0 lead for the visiting side.

The Azkals, however, would slice the deficit into half four minutes later by way of a goal from debuting Mike Ott, the brother of Philippine team veteran Manny.

Mr. Ott came in as a second-half substitute and immediately made his presence felt by converting a volley from Martin Steuble to score his first international goal, sending the crowd at the RMFS into a frenzy.

The Philippines tried to build on the momentum of Mr. Ott’s goal but Bahrain regrouped and staved off the home’s team challenge.

Bahrain took the game out of reach in stoppage time when Mazrooq Alromaihi scored another goal off a header for the final score.

For Azkals assistant coach Emilio “Chieffy” Caligdong, the loss to Bahrain in their friendly showed that more work needs to be done for them heading into the Suzuki Cup, highlighting among others adjustment in the back line.

“The players have to do a better job at adjusting to the strengths of the opponents. We have to address a number of things, including problems at the back line,” he said in an interview with local sports media after the match.

It is the same observation that Philippine Football Federation President Mariano “Nonong” Araneta had, saying that the Azkals still need to sharpen up.

“Bahrain played well, played better. They were very fluid with their offense as oppose to ours which was tentative. We need more games in the buildup for the Suzuki Cup to make the team jell better,” Mr. Araneta said in a separate interview.

He, however, feels that against North Korea today the Azkals will play better while also commending Mr. Ott for a good debut with the team.

“They were sluggish tonight (against Bahrain) but I believe they will play better [on my Monday]. As for Mike Ott, he had a good debut. He has good decision making and the football sense is there,” the PFF head said.

Meanwhile, against North Korea today, the Azkals are out to make it two wins in a row over their opponent, who they beat, 3-2, in the final game of their joint 2018 World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers group match early this year here at home.

The win was the first time that the Philippines beat North Korea and catapulted it to the third round of the Asian Cup qualifiers.

North Korea is currently ranked 118th in the world while the Philippines is at 125th. -- Michael Angelo S. Murillo