Global defenders Daisuke Sato and Amani Aguinaldo featured in the Philippines’ unfortunate 5-1 loss to Uzbekistan in Tuesday evening’s 2018 FIFA World Cup/2019 AFC Asian Cup Second Round Qualifiers Group Stage match played at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan. Sato played as a fullback for the whole of the match while his teammate for club and country came on to replace Luke Woodland after the break.
The whole match was rough for the Filipinos, particularly to the defenders who looked helpless whenever Uzbekistan went on a quick attack. Sato caught the eye of many when he determinedly made scoring difficult for Uzbek ace marksman Igor Sergeev. Although the Central Asian striker managed to score twice, he may have added more to his brace had Sato not been able to challenge him successfully in two occasions in the first half. It can be argued that the 20-year-old fullback played the best football on the night for the hosts. For Sato, nonetheless, it was just another day in the office. “It’s nothing special. It’s always the same. I need to keep my performance well,” he stated professionally.
He may have played well against the Uzbeks but the result did not go down well with Sato who hates the feeling of losing, never mind that their opponents were superior to them on paper and on the pitch apparently. “I don’t want to lose any game. I want to change Philippine football. I want to make them proud,” he stressed. Looking at the bigger picture, Sato thinks that the campaign is far from finished. After all, the Azkals are still in third place just behind now second-placed side Uzbekistan in their group due to goal difference. In addition to that, they are only three points away from tying group leaders North Korea, who they will face next away from home. “We have few more games to go. We have a game next month against North Korea. We need to keep on going,” he remarked.
On his part, substitute Aguinaldo thinks they can pick up a lot from the defeat. Apart from the experience of battling a top team, the former FEU Tamaraw defender sees the opportunity to improve as they progress into the Qualifiers. Aware of the mistakes the team committed collectively, Aguinaldo reckons the team will come back stronger after realizing the effects of such lapses, particularly against a talented team like Uzbekistan. “We had some really, really bad lapses that turned into goals because they all took their chances,” he claimed. Indeed, the Uzbeks recorded seven shots on target to which five of those found the back of the net.
Another thing that he thinks that made it difficult for the Philippine defense to cope was the Uzbek’s height advantage. Whilst they find themselves handicapped in the vertical department, Aguinaldo does not believe the team will not be competent enough in handling them in the future. “We have to be more aggressive. We have to stay on the opponent more. We have to bother them so they won’t have a clear shot on goal using whatever advantage they have,” he assessed.
Despite the result, Aguinaldo took the opportunity to thank the fans who remained in the stadium until the end of the match despite the unpleasing score line. “I’m proud to be a Filipino right now and really proud of the fans that were still there to support us no matter what happens,” he relayed.
Sato and Aguinaldo, alongside English-born Luke Woodland, are among the young players in the Azkals’ defense. Both Global defenders are just aged 20 and will continue to develop their game given a lot of regular opportunities at a top level. The result last Tuesday may have been painstaking and frustrating but with them continuously acquiring valuable experience, the Azkals defense has a bright future in store for years to come. –LGT
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