Strengths – China’s high intensity offensive formation worked very well during their first match. In the game against Kyrgyzstan, the side managed a number of shots, and were even dangerous from outside the penalty box through the likes of Wu Lei or Wu Xi.
Weaknesses – China seemed to lose their concentration during the last ten minutes of each half against Kyrgyzstan – with one of the blunders even costing the side a goal. This could play into the Azkal’s hands, who are likely to sit back and hit the Dragons on the counter when they are most vulnerable.
Player to Watch (with explanation) – Zhang Linpeng
The defender is already known as the ‘Chinese Sergio Ramos,’ and will be the solid rock standing in the way of The Azkals’ forwards. He has a number of impressive attributes, including strength in aerial duels. Zhang will be at the heart of a 5-3-2 formation (could be 3-5-2 while attacking), as he was in the first match, which will be difficult for the Philippines to break down.
Strengths – Philippines may be the best SEA nations so far, given that they only conceded a single goal against tournament favourites Korea Republic. Meanwhile Thailand and Vietnam loss against India and 2007 champions Iraq respectively. Eriksson plays effective, defensive football supplemented by a good counter-attack scheme. Despite only having 18% ball possession, The Azkals managed to take six shots at Korea’s goal.
Weaknesses – While both Thailand and Vietnam managed to score against their opponents, The Azkals were far lass clinical up top. It remains to be seen whether their ‘wait and see’ plan will manage to conjure up anything against China, but it seems unlikely given the evidence of the first match. They must find another way to break down their opponents if they want anything from the game. Another loss would make it very difficult for the Philippines to qualify via the third place rankings.
Player to Watch (with explanation) – Javier Patino
Having played in the Chinese Super League with Henan Jianye, the Spanish-born forward may be familiar with some of his upcoming opponents. He has recovered well from a devastating injury sustained during his time there, beginning his revival at Thai League Champions Buriram. Patino played a key role for his side in their game against Korea Republic, and could lead the line once again for the Azkals.
A draw results isn’t an impossible result for Philippines. They are strong in counter-attack, which they can use to exploit China’s concentration problem. The Azkals must be brave and try to take more possession if they want to get something from this match.