Peaking Azkals eye Suzuki Cup semis berth over Indonesia
MANILA, Philippines – As the Philippines plays the last stretch of the group stage, the Azkals target at least a draw against Indonesia on Sunday, November 25, to clinch a semifinal berth in the 2018 ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup.
Fresh from holding powerhouse Thailand to a 1-1 stalemate, the Azkals hope to ride on the momentum against the eliminated Indonesians at 8 pm at the Gelora Bung Karno (GBK) Stadium in Jakarta.
"I like to say that we’re peaking at the right time," said team manager Dan Palami.
"The players have matured as well even in their playing style. They are not just risk takers when it comes to just giving the ball in the attack, the long balls, hoping for their teammates to connect, but now, their attack is more purposeful."
Palami, who has supported the squad since 2010, believes that new Azkals coach and former England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson, along with senior advisor Scott Cooper, already managed to whip the players into much better form.
But the Azkals know that it's always different playing in front of the football-crazed Indonesia crowd.
"It certainly feels that way... it brings back a lot of memories since that time we played here," said Palami.
"We cannot take for granted their home support especially with their countless supporters always giving them the extra boost. We’re just hoping that the players be able to cope with it and play according to how we should play."
When the Philippines nailed a historic semifinal berth in the 2010 Suzuki Cup, the Azkals had to battle Indonesia at the GBK Stadium in both home and away matches since both the Rizal Memorial Stadium and Pana-ad Stadium did not meet the international venue standards back then.
The crowd became Indonesia's crucial 12th man as the Philippines lost on a 0-2 aggregate on goals from Uruguayan-Indonesian Christian Gonzales.
Despite those painful memories, the Azkals remain determined to not let Indonesia spoil its semis hopes.
"Different game different time but hopefully a different result," said captain Phil Younghusband. – Rappler.com