THE Philippines may be on top of the Southeast Asian football scene on paper, but it remains to be seen on the field.
That was proven once again in the Philippines recent Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup campaign where they missed out on a finals berth for third straight time, and team manager Dan Palami stressed that the ranking won’t matter without a title.
“Until we get that Cup, we will be a potential Asean football power,” Palami said. “There’s nothing like the Cup to prove that we are indeed are a force to reckon with.”
The top-ranked squad in the region at 128th, the Filipino booters bowed to lower-ranked squads in the AFF Cup.
“Fifa ranking is never really a measurement of where a team is staying because you don’t play the same games,” Azkals coach Thomas Dooley admitted. “Some play more, some less, some against stronger teams, some against weaker teams.”
Although they dispatched 159th-ranked Laos, 4-1, and 157th-ranked Indonesia, 4-0, in the group stage, the Azkals suffered disappointing defeats at the hands of 138th-ranked Vietnam, 3-0, in their final group stage match, and 144th-ranked Thailand, 3-0, on aggregate, in the semifinals.
In a more glaring example last May, the Filipinos footballers lost 1-0 to a Palestine side that was ranked 165th in the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup finale that enabled the country from the middle east to make a huge leap in the ranks to 94th.
The Azkals also suffered a 3-2 extra-time loss to Myanmar in the Philippine Peace Cup virtual finale three months ago.
The Azkals have played more friendlies compared to their Asean neighbors in preparation for the Suzuki Cup, greatly factoring in their current ranking.
“But Fifa ranking doesn’t really show which team is better, which team is not,” Dooley said, although he believes the Filipino booters are on the right track.
“The development we had so far is okay,” the German-American mentor said. “I think you can move to a certain level where it’s a little bit more difficult.”
“We just have to work harder to get to the next level,” he added. “Everything has to be a little bit faster. Every decision has to be made a little bit different and the urgency we have in the back has to be developed.”