I watched Maldives’ 3-2 loss to Myanmar on the AFC Hub youtube channel in preparation of my commentary of tomorrow’s game. I also took a look at highlights of their other two matches in Group A.
Maldives are a nation with only 350,000 people, similar to what Brunei has. To come up with a competitive side out of a pool that small is pretty darn impressive.
The captain of Maldives is #7 Ali Ashfaq, and he will be a handful for the Azkals tomorrow. At 28 years he is at his peak. Ashfaq plays an attacking role and is left-footed. From what I can see, perhaps a bit too left footed. The right-footed attempts I’ve seen from him on the highlights lacked venom.
Ashfaq is very quick and his vision with his passing is also good. His dribbling moves are also smooth, coupled with a few shoulder fakes that can bedevil naive defenders.
Ashfaq’s left is a real piledriver. Against Kygyzstan he very nearly connected on some shots from way out of the penalty box.
The PDRM (Malaysian club) man already has three goals in this campaign. According to the commentator, he produced 23 international goals last year, making him one of the most prolific scorers in international football for 2013. He has scored 41 times in just 54 matches for Maldives, an incredible strike rate.
The other dangerman for Maldives is Mohammad Umair, the number 10. He operates out of the attacking mid slot and takes a good corner as well. He scored off a center from Ashfaq against Myanmar.
Ashfaq seems to be the focal point of the Maldivian attack. He is something like a Schrocky and a Phil rolled in one. Thomas Dooley’s charges will do well to shadow him.
Outside of that I haven’t seen a great deal of quality going forward for Maldives. They didn’t seem to control the midfield at all against Myanmar, and were starved of possession at times against a Myanmar team that played very attractive football. This is especially poor considering Myanmar played most of the game with ten men.
Maldives, like a lot of teams in this competition, resorted to the much-unloved long-ball tactic in spots.
Mohammad Rasheed is the Maldivian left back and he is a potential soft spot. Myanmar skinned him early in the match, with three chances within the first five minutes on his side that required good work by Imran Mohammad, the keeper, to neutralize.
Whether it’s Reichelt, Steuble, or James YH at the right wing, I like our chances against Rasheed.
Imran is a sound custodian, although he did allow a late Myanmar strike under his body that perhaps a better keeper saves.
The Maldivian defense looked susceptible to counter attacks. Myanmar scored twice on breakaways, with Kyaw Ko Ko having another ridiculously great day. That 21-year old kid, who abused our U23 side in the SEA Games in 2011, has a very big future.
Against Myanmar the Maldives started Mohammad Shifan in the defense and he was wretched, making a lousy backpass that, if not for the alertness of Imran, could have been a goal. His inability to tidy up a Kyaw Ko Ko square in the game led to the South East Asian’s second goal. For the next two games, Shifan was on the bench. Let’s hope the guy replacing him is as poor.
What Maldives has shown plenty of this tournament is character. They were once down 2-0 against Myanmar but somehow produced out a decent 3-2 scoreline. They defeated Kyrgyztan 2-0 then gutted out a valuable 0-0 draw versus Palestine that saw them advance thanks to the Central Asians’ startling 1-0 win over Myanmar. The stadium in Malé will also no doubt be packed with 12,000 screaming fans.
Maldives may not be the greatest team in the world, and I do like the Azkals chances against them in the semifinal. I think in Rizal Memorial, we beat them easily if we are full strength. But Maldives knows how to fight and scrap. Sometimes in football that is good enough for victory, especially at home.
Tune in to ABS-CBN Sports and Action tomorrow, 11:30 pm for live coverage of Philippines-Maldives.