Vietnam loss a wakeup call for Azkals, says Phil Younghusband
Phil Younghusband insisted the Azkals were not too relaxed in their last match of the group stage against Vietnam in the AFF Suzuki Cup.

THE Philippines finally heard the alarm clock’s annoying sound after being cast in a beautiful dream in the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup.

Toying with Laos and Indonesia to emerge unbeaten in their first two matches and book an early ticket to the semifinals, the Azkals found their match in Vietnam, which dealt the Filipinos their first defeat of the tournament following a 3-1 decision on Friday night at the My Dinh National Stadium.

“It was a wake-up call,” striker Phil Younghusband said. “We know how difficult the teams are in the competition and we knew before the game how good Vietnam would be and if we made mistakes, we would get punished.”

The Azkals avoided miscues in their last two meetings against the Southeast Asian powerhouse - a 2-0 victory in the 2010 edition that started the Azkals’ phenomenon, and a 1-0 win two years ago.

But there was no third time against a Vietnamese team that was girding for vengeance following those two setbacks against the Filipinos.

“In front of their home crowd, you have to keep it nil-nil as long as possible and as soon as they go a goal up, it’s difficult to get back,” added the star striker, who found the Vietnamese defense impenetrable after scoring in the first two games.

“That’s always been the case against Vietnam -- it’s been nil-nil for a while and we’ve been able to get a goal on the counterattack.”

This time, the Azkals, facing little pressure having clinched a knockout stage berth, surrendered a goal just nine minutes into the match, before giving up two more goals in a span of just eight minutes early in the second half.

But Younghusband insisted they were not too relaxed in their last match of the group stage.

“I don’t think it was complacency,” the 27-year-old standout said. “Maybe a little bit tired, maybe mentally tired as well. I wouldn’t say complacency because that’s a bit strong.”

“But now we know what to expect.”

They should, as the path to a breakthrough title only becomes steeper, facing either two former tormentors in Thailand and Singapore in the next round, starting December 6 at home.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos