PFF under fire after Azkals’ underwhelming run
The underwhelming run of the Philippine Azkals in the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Mitsubishi Electric Cup was a bitter pill to swallow for their supporters, including a group which voiced its displeasure at the close of the campaign.
“Put some [expletive] fight,” read a sign flashed by the Ultra Filipinas fan group during the second half of the Azkals’ 2-1 defeat to Indonesia on Monday at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
It was a message aimed directly at the Philippine Football Federation (PFF), which is under fire for another early exit in the tournament which became the launching pad for the Azkals to emerge from among the minnows of Southeast Asia.
The day after missing the semifinals for the third time in the last four editions, the PFF acknowledged the need to reevaluate the program ahead of the next major competition which will be joint qualifications for the Fifa (International Federation of Association Football) World Cup and the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup.
“The Azkals may have fallen short of making the semifinals, but we saw some positives as we were able to give opportunities to younger players which bodes well for the future of the team,” said PFF president Nonong Araneta.
“We will prepare the team better in the next cycle of World Cup and Asian Cup Qualifying,” added the long-time football chief.
The qualifiers won’t start until October, a timetable that could either be beneficial or detrimental to a team hungry to make up for its recent woes.
The Azkals launched their AFF Cup campaign with players mostly based in the local scene, including youngsters thriving either in past youth teams or for clubs in the Philippines Football League.
There were some bright spots like Kenshiro Daniels and Sebastian Rasmussen scoring three goals apiece and the likes of Sandro Reyes, Julian Schwarzer and Jefferson Tabinas showing promise of being the future cornerstones.
But the Azkals’ defense, once among the strengths that contributed to semifinal runs in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2018, conceded 10 goals in the group stage, with almost half coming during a 4-0 loss to defending champion Thailand after Christmas.
Placing fourth in Group A with three points that was only produced through a 5-1 thumping of lowly Brunei, retiring captain Stephan Schrock asked for patience amid the gloomy period the Azkals are experiencing.
“It is a good move, it is a smart move by the federation, from the management that we started the transition,” Schrock said after playing his final international match.
“You will not see immediate results in this tournament, but it’s a long-term concept. It was necessary to do so, and we will see immediate results in the near future.”
“Just be patient,” Schrock added. INQ
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