Football: Philippines now ‘serious contender,’ says coach


06:49 PM December 11th, 2012

December 11th, 2012 06:49 PM

Members of the Philippines team pause for a minute of silence offered to victims of Typhoon Pablo in southern Philippines before the start of their semi-finals match against Singapore at the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup 2012 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012. The Philippines has shown it’s a “serious contender” by reaching the second straight AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final, its coach said Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. AP/AARON FAVILA

SINGAPORE—The Philippines has shown it’s a “serious contender” by reaching the second straight AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final—but it still trails Southeast Asia’s traditional powers, its coach said Tuesday.

Michael Weiss warned it would be “presumptuous” to think the Azkals, or street dogs, were on the verge of winning the Southeast Asian tournament, ahead of Wednesday’s second leg against Singapore.

“Already reaching the semi-finals is a success I would say, it shows that we are serious contenders,” the German told reporters on Tuesday.

“But it doesn’t mean that we automatically have to win the Suzuki Cup… that would be presumptuous,” he added.

“We have to see where we come from in the Philippines and we have to be realistic, we are still in developing and emerging process. Countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, they are still ahead very clearly.”

The Philippines has long been bit-players on the Asian stage but it turned heads by reaching the 2010 semi-finals, beating defending champion and co-host Vietnam along the way.

On Saturday in Manila, it scratched out a 0-0 draw with three-time winner Singapore to leave the two-legged semi-final on a knife-edge.

Winning the tournament, or even reaching the final, would do wonders for the popularity of football in the Philippines, where basketball and boxing remain the favorite sports.

“If you see countries like Myanmar even, you can watch football 24 hours a day. Philippines is just not yet there,” Weiss said.

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