‘Azkals must raise level of play a little bit’
BANGKOK—In a scene that has become all too familiar, the Philippine Azkals once again came to grief with another great opportunity gone begging.
This time it came on a humid Wednesday night in the Thai capital, where the Azkals couldn’t cope with the Thailand onslaught and fell in a 0-3 setback in the second leg of their AFF Suzuki Cup semifinals at a packed Rajamangala Stadium here.
And for the third straight time, the Azkals failed to find the back of the net in the tournament’s knockout stage.
Coach Thomas Dooley Azkals and manager Dan Palami admitted the Thais were the better team with a boisterous flag-waving crowd of 50,000 backing them up.
“With the level that they play and the environment that they have (here), it’s almost impossible not to play good,” said Dooley. “You still have a chance if you stay defensively organized and they can’t go through.”
Unfortunately for the Azkals, it took just six minutes for the Thais to break them down. The early goal proved to be a heavy blow, but the knockout punch came at the hour mark as the Thais doubled the lead.
Notwithstanding the loss, Dooley said the Azkals’ performance in the tournament showed that the team is headed in the right direction.
“Were moving forward in the right direction,” he said. “We just don’t have a trophy and that’s what we’ve been praying for. Obviously we want to play at a different level and we all have to raise that level a little bit.”
The Azkals registered their most convincing victories in the competition in this edition of the tournament, drubbing Laos (4-1) and Indonesia (4-0) in Hanoi to advance to the semifinals with a game to spare.
They also snapped their losing streak to the Thais when they held them to a scoreless draw in the first leg in Manila. But the Azkals’ inability to score in the home game came back to haunt them here.
Having backed the team for the past four years, Palami felt the pain of losing again. But the Azkals boss said there were still plenty of positives to draw from the setback.
“I don’t know what to say because I am used to it. But a loss is always painful, especially this one because I know we could have gotten it if we kept our composure,” said Palami.
“It’s back to the drawing board for us and ask ourselves how can we get past this next barrier.”
Palami admitted the crowd played a huge factor in the victory.
“It was intimidating and it took awhile for the players to settle down,” he said. “Maybe before we start dreaming about championships, maybe we could also start dreaming about fans really showing up for big games at home like the semifinals (last Saturday).”