German coach Michael Weiss sees the Philippines sustaining its rise in international football following another banner year that saw the Azkals clinch a historic Top 3 finish in the AFC Challenge Cup and reaching the AFF Suzuki Cup semifinals for the second straight tournament.
“I always said that the best for Philippine football has yet to come and I am 100 percent convinced that we will be stronger in the next years and a football nation to be taken seriously,” Weiss said in his Christmas message to the Philippine football community that was posted on the Azkals website yesterday.
“Despite not reaching the Finals in the Suzuki Cup, I think we have grown steadily in the past two years under my guidance, creating one historical success after another.”
The year ended on a bittersweet note for the Azkals after they fell short in the two-leg semifinals of the AFF Suzuki Cup to eventual champion Singapore, which has now won the tournament a record four times.
It was a Suzuki Cup campaign highlighted by a repeat win over Vietnam and an impressive triumph over Myanmar in the group stage in Bangkok.
Weiss noted that the Azkals, who beat Singapore in two tuneup matches before the Suzuki Cup, have grown steadily the past two years and are actually considered as the “most improved team” in the International Football Federaton (Fifa) and ELO rankings.
The Azkals also collected their first trophy in close to a century when they captured the Philippine Football Peace Cup last September, pulling off a three-game sweep of Guam, Macau and Chinese-Taipei at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The country will host the Azkals’ next tournament, the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers, in March.