MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Azkals are going to the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup with a strong belief that they can pull off a breakthrough performance similar to what they did in the 2010 edition of the tournament.
Grouped together with former titlist Thailand and Vietnam and qualifier Myanmar, the Filipino footballers are poised to prove that their semifinal finish in the 2010 Cup is no fluke.
“I think it is important that we show that the 2010 Suzuki Cup wasn’t a one-time thing, that it wasn’t a fluke. We have to show that we really have come a long way and that we are consistent,” said Filipino striker Phil Younghusband in the tournament’s official website.
Two years ago, the Azkals barged into the Cup’s knockout stage by holding Singapore to a 1-1 draw and whipping then defending champion Vietnam, 2-0.
The Filipinos may have ended their 2010 campaign via consecutive losses to Indonesia, but they have earned the region’s recognition as one of the emerging football powers in Southeast Asia.
Aside from having the likes of Chieffy Caligdong, Phil and James Younghusband, Denis Wolf, Patrick Reichelt and Eduard Sacapano, Azkals coach Michael Weiss is expected to include in the final 22 several more Filipino-foreign players who were reportedly granted releases by their respective clubs.
Joining the Azkals in Bangkok are striker Angel Guirado, midfielder-cum-striker Paul Mulders, defenders Dennis Cagara and Jerry Lucena and keeper Neil Etheridge.
Phil said an improved lineup will help them improve from their past Suzuki Cup outing.
He added that if things go their way, they might even make it to the finals.
“The last time, we made it to the semi-finals,” said Phil. “We want to get to the [two-legged] finals, that’s what we want to achieve.”