MANILA, Philippines – Like their fans, the Azkals are on Cloud 9.
The men’s Philippine football team turned to Twitter to express their gratitude and joy after defeating Palestine 4-3 at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup playoffs Monday, March 19, to take home the bronze.
Chieffy Caligdong, who played the role of Team Captain in the Azkals’ game against Turkmenistan, tweeted, “Ang PINOY d sumusuko LUMALABAN..proud to be PINOY..para sa atin lahat to.. (A Filipino doesn’t give up, he fights. Proud to be Filipino. This is for all of us).”
Midfielder Lexton Moy also posted after the game, “Nice to End the Run on a High Note! To our most loyal supporters we sincerely thank each and everyone one who rep the country loud n’ proud.”
Head coach Michael Weiss did not hide his pride either. After the game, he thanked his players and the team’s fans.
“I am very proud to be part of this development of Philippines’ football and I look forward to it continuing.” he said. “Overall I think we deserved to finish third and I thank my players for their never-say-die attitude.”
“I also want to take the opportunity to thank all our fans in the Philippines, in the Gulf, in Europe and all over the World who have supported us. Without them, what we have achieved would not have been possible.”
The Azkals also expressed sadness about parting.
Defender Rob Gier tweeted that he was already missing his roommate, Ray Jonnson, while James Younghusband tweeted, “Its been emotional!” at his teammates.
The tweet prompted a response from Moy, “Not yet time brotha! It will be later, but we not even home yet.”
‘Not our day’
Meanwhile, Palestine is not so happy.
Head coach Jamal Mahmoud was quoted by the AFC website as saying his team has played its worst performance in the past 12-and-a-half-years.
Mahmoud expressed his congratulations to the Philippines but showed frustration in the way Palestine played.
“Tactically, we knew exactly how the Philippines would play and we trained for this,” he said. “I don’t blame the players for being tired. I blame them for losing concentration. There were six or seven players who were having an off day.”
He also expressed regret in not being able to make the Palestinian people happy.
Mahmoud however, did congratulate his players for their heroic efforts to catch up. Palestine fought hard until the end of the match, giving the Philippines some trouble in the 2nd half.
“I thank the players for their efforts and their attempt to get back into the match,” he said.
Phil Younghusband was awarded the Golden Boot Award of the tournament after being the highest scorer of the competition.
Younghusband totaled 6 goals in 5 games, and scored the opening goal in the team’s last 4 games against India, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Palestine.
He netted 3 goals more than closest contender Pak Nam-Chol, who was awarded the Abdulla Al Dabal Most Valuable Player Award after North Korea defeated Turkmenistan in the finals 2-1, to again snag the crown.
Before the playoffs, Younghusband talked to media and said his goals were in large part due to the help he received from his teammates.
“Obviously, the attack has been getting the praise because we have been scoring but it’s been a total team effort in this tournament,” he said. “My expectations are always to score more but the most important thing is the team wins.”
Younghusband performed a cartwheel after his last goal against Palestine, but the star striker usually celebrates with his trademark dance wherein he snaps his fingers and sways his arms from side to side.
The team is scheduled to arrive in the country Wednesday afternoon, March 20, a day after their victory. – Rappler.com
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