The great wall of Pan

Palestine entered the game against Taiwan as strong favourites

Taiwan faced off against Palestine in their opening group game at the 2018 Asian Games. Palestine went into the game as favourites as they’re much higher in the FIFA rankings than Taiwan, and have had more positive results over a longer period of time.

Not only are they ranked higher, but culturally they’re Palestinians are a lot more into playing football than Taiwanese people, in Taiwan, it is still a relatively new sport to participate in. All these factors added up to most people expecting Palestine to win the game, and people are expecting them to be in the top two positions in the group come to the end of the first round. 

None shall pass the wall of Pan

Taiwan started brightly, but after roughly the 15-minute mark found themselves on the back foot for the rest of the game, however unlike Taiwanese sides of the past they managed to dig in and battle their way through a game against a strong opponent. 

One man stood out head and shoulders above every other Taiwanese player, and that was goalkeeper Pan Wen-chieh. He was an absolute wall in between the sticks and managed to make save after save to make sure Palestine didn’t find a breakthrough. With Pan in that mood, they could have played until next week and the game would have still ended 0-0. He faced over 30 shots and didn’t let in any goals, which fully explains why he was named the man of the match. 

Taiwan’s three overaged players lead by example 

Taiwan’s three overage players all led by example, the defensive trio of Pan Wen-chieh, Wang Ruei and Chen Ting-yang were a collective wall in front of Taiwan’s goal. Pan stood out, but Wang and Chen were excellent in the centre of defence too. 

The three of them were leaders on the pitch the rest of the young lads in the team had a very tough night but when they looked to these three they saw calmness and absolute leadership which we can assume is why they were picked – to guide the youngsters. 

Even though it proved to be a very tough night for the other lads, every single player who represented Taiwan knuckled down, dug in and fought for that well-deserved point, and it will hold them in good stead for the next game against Indonesia on Sunday. It should be a confidence booster for sure and has shown them that when that kind of effort is put in then it can pay off. 

A minimal attacking threat was offered 

When Taiwan got the ball, they played the Taiwanese way – that is to look for the long through ball to the fast lads, but it didn’t work all night and there didn’t seem to be any other option or idea. I am likely being a bit unfair because the opposition was of very good quality and controlled the ball well and didn’t give Taiwan much time on the ball by pressing constantly. 

When Taiwan did have a chance to break they continually kept trying to look for the long through ball which failed every time. The one thing we would think Taiwan would do well to improve from the game was to try and control the ball better, easier said than done in a game though, and easier said than done from the comfort of my own chair. I am aware it’s a lot more difficult in a game. So I hope I do see Taiwan try a different approach if the long through ball isn’t working but I also understand why maybe sometimes teams do struggle because the opposition is also playing well. 

Seeing Taiwan dig in and get a result was very satisfying

Taiwan hah attempted to dig in and grind out a result in pretty much every single game I have watched before Gary White showed up. Gary White implemented the mentality to attack and if he buggers off to manage Hong Kong we bloody hope that Taiwan keeps that attacking mentality. 

Anyway, this was the very first time I have sat and watched Taiwan attempt to dig in and grind out a result and be successful. I saw myself counting down the minutes. Holy hell….another shot, another Pan save! How long can this go on? Surely Taiwan cannot hold on?! They never hold on! 

15 minutes to go…bloody hell they might hold on! They can do it…COME ON! No way…down to ten minutes…another four Pan saves…still 0-0…..STILL 0-0!!! NO BLOOOOODY WAY 5 minutes left, and it’s still 0-0 another 2 Pan saves. They’re gonna get a 0-0 that feels like a win COME ON YOU BEAUTY! STOPPPPPPPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGEEEEE TIME YEAAAAAAH YOU CAN DO IT JIIIIIIIIIA BLOOOOOOOOODY YOOOOOU (that means come on in Chinese) Taiwan. 

Then they did it. They actually dug in and got a result. That last paragraph described how my last 15 minutes felt in words, and I haven’t felt that way about a 0-0 draw since I went to Stamford Bridge, when that little money grabbing Mickey Owen played for Newcastle and we battled to a 0-0 draw that felt like a win. 

My mate and I celebrated in London all weekend like it was a momentous victory, and the celebrations including running around shouting I HAVE BULLETPROOF NIPPLES PING PING! (Don’t ask) That was one very expensive and drunken weekend in the big smoke, and Newcastle still got relegated anyway, but the bulletproof nipples lived on and were a thing throughout the relegation party season. 

The feelings were the same finally witnessing Taiwan dig in and pull out an epic result. The celebrations however were more muted, no booze and no bulletproof nipples. The hope is Taiwan don’t end getting knocked out of the first round after such a brilliant game just as Newcastle ended up being relegated. The bulletproof nipples are with you Taiwan just as they were with Mickey O and the lads in the relegation party season. 

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