There were a couple of milestones chalked up by the Philippines on the heels of its hard-fought 1-0 victory over Turkmenistan Tuesday night in the AFC Challenge Cup Group E Qualifying at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
But none of those would compare to the fact that the Azkals moved closer to their most cherished dream of reaching the AFC Asian Cup two years from now in Australia.
“We know it’s a long way to go, but this is a huge step,” said Azkals manager Dan Palami, after the team savored its maiden triumph over Turkmenistan, marking the first time the Philippines also topped its qualifying group in any tournament that it has joined in.
“The team played its hearts out and I hope next year we qualify for the Asian Cup,” said Philippine Football Federation president Mariano “Nonong”Araneta.
A draw would have been enough for the Azkals to reach the Challenge Cup tournament, but they refused to settle, relentlessly pushing for a game-winner that came through Phil Younghusband in the 67th minute that had the stadium in bedlam.
Meanwhile, Azkals skipper Chieffy Caligdong and coach Michael Weiss have been nominated for major awards in the inaugural 2013 Asean Football Federation Awards. Caligdong is in the running for AFF Player of the Year, which he will dispute with Singapore skipper Shahril Ishak, Thailand striker Teerasil Dangda and Myanmar’s Kyi Lin.
Weiss was nominated as Coach of the Year together with Singapore’s Raddy Avramovic, Thailand’s Winfried Schafer and K. Rajagobal of Malaysia.