In it to win it: Azkals on a mission in Suzuki Cup

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I want to feel like we’re Germany. Twice semifinalists in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. Twice denied. But in Brazil, the potential was finally fulfilled as they finally added a fourth star to their kit.

I am not suggesting that the Philippines is the equal of Die Mannschafft. I am merely alluding to the situation of the Philippine Men’s National Team has been on the outside looking in the last two editions of the Suzuki Cup.

In 2010, the team overachieved and was just happy to roll along.

In 2012, the PMNT was on a mission.

Now in 2014, they are out to make history by winning it all.

And that begs the questions, “Is it doable and achievable?”

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“Anything is possible,” said first year Azkals head coach Thomas Dooley. “The team made the last two times semifinals so we have to win it now. This is the kind of pressure that we have to live with. I’m better in many ways knowing that unlike where’s it’s the World Cup Qualifiers where it is much harder so you don’t expect anything. I’d rather go into a tournament where we have to win it. We have to show it. That should give us confidence when we step on the field to get the job done.”

Added team manager Dan Palami, “If we are to justify FIFA’s seeding the Philippines as Southeast Asia’s best then anything less than a championship is a disappointment. More than justifying FIFA, it really is a logical step given the strides the team has made. A finals berth would be good but somehow I don’t think that will be satisfying.”

Regarding the German comparison, unlike their more dynamic attack, the Philippines gets it done with defense. They have been the stingiest in Suzuki Cup competition in the last two editions conceding a total of three goals in every tournament without a negative goal difference.

While defense helps win championships, a team must be able to score goals. For all of Spain’s one-goal wins in the 2010 World Cup (five to be exact), they put eight in the back of the net and conceded only two.

Here’s how the Philippines fared in the last two Suzuki Cups:





“We got the job done by playing more defensive and hoping to catch opponents off guard with quick counters,” said longtime team striker Phil Younghusband. “If we want to win we have to make adjustments and take it to the next level. Personally, I’d be very very disappointed if we didn’t win it.”

Underscored Palami, “We are in this to win it. People have been saying that we are a team on the rise and we cannot keep saying that forever. As I said during the presscon (where the PFF talked about the upcoming Peace Cup and Suzuki Cup), we are currently ranked number one in Southeast Asia. It’s a challenge to our coach and us. Everyone involved including the fans. It’s a challenge we intend to conquer. Hopefully, this time people won’t be referring to our wins as miracles or landmark wins but (beating Vietnam on its home soil) more of an expected outcome.”

“I am happy how we’ve developed in the last few months,” noted Dooley. “We almost won the Challenge Cup. We’ve been playing exciting attacking football. If we want to take it to the next level, we need to exert better control, better passing, and playing forward a lot quicker. We have to be better athletes so that means weight training. We make the most of our bodies to winning headers and set plays. Everything that we need to do we need to get better.”

Added Dooley, “Another aspect of the game that we have to look at is the mental challenge. In being faster, that also finding open teammates, recognizing the spaces we can exploit, and making decisions at the right time.”

The former team captain of the US Men’s National Team also extrapolated on “making decisions at the right time” by suggesting that his players recognize the difference of a successful attack hinges on making a pass at the right moment rather than a second later.

Dooley believes that the team has several months to work on all these aspects. “The team will have the Peace Cup and a camp abroad to prepare for the Suzuki Cup in late November. We will also try to find other competitive matches in between. But we are working on it. It’s a good challenge.”


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