Azkals out to prove doubters wrong after being dismissed by analysts as 'non-contenders'
Azkals manager Dan Palami hopes the Azkals can capitalize on a hot start. Jerome Ascano

HANOI — After a good start, a better performance is necessary for the best finish.

That’s what Philippine men’s football team manager Dan Palami is hoping for as the Azkals try to finally conquer the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup.

The Azkals kicked off their campaign on a bright note after overwhelming Laos, 4-1, on Saturday in a rare opening victory that proved elusive in the past two stagings of Southeast Asia’s showpiece event.

[See Azkals shake off early miscue to pull off four-goal win over Laos in Suzuki Cup debut]

“This is the best start that we’ve had so far in the three editions we’re in the group stages,” Palami said a day after the win as the Filipino booters fared poorer in starting the last two editions, settling for a 1-1 draw against Singapore in 2010, then suffering a 2-1 loss to Thailand two years later.

“I hope we sustain the momentum.”

But the Azkals have a long way to go despite being on the cusp of another semifinal berth with a victory against Indonesia on Tuesday. Only the top two teams in Group A advance to the next round.

“If we win against Indonesia, that eases a lot of pressure on the team and maybe we’ll be able to rest some people in the last game,” the national team boss said.

“But of course we want to get nine points and establish ourselves as true contenders in this tournament,” he was quick to add after hearing foreign TV analysts call them 'non-contenders.'

“They didn’t give us a chance to even qualify for the semis,” he said. “So I hope we prove them wrong and especially with the support of the Filipinos, we will be successful.”

One thing the Azkals can do, according to Palami, is to convert chances they failed to make against the Laotians.

“If we are to be successful, we have to be more clinical in our finishing,” he observed.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos