Vengeance not Azkals motivation against nemesis Indonesia, insists Phil Younghusband
Azkals striker Phil Younghusband (left), Thomas Dooley, Indonesia coach Alfred Reidl and Merah Puti captain Firman Utina share a light moment on the eve of the showdown. Karlo Sacamos

HANOI — The Philippines battle Indonesia in an important match on Tuesday and although the Azkals would like to get pumped up before kickoff, strike star Phil Younghusband insists vengeance would be the last thing they would use as motivation.

Younghusband says the Azkals’ focus is solely on advancing to the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup semifinals.

The Filipino footballers suffered a 2-0 defeat on aggregate at the hands of the Indonesians in the 2010 semifinals to end their Cinderella run. The Azkals also lost their last meeting with the Merah Puti, 2-0, in a friendly last year.

Ever since, the Philippines has had a poor record against Indonesia, losing all but three of its 22 matches since 1934, according to the Fifa website.

Younghusband hopes their 23rd meeting will have a different result.

“Not really revenge, but just to win the game,” the star striker said on Monday. “The thing on our mind is to qualify (for the semis). That’s all we’re thinking about.”

“After the game, we can think, ‘Oh yes, we’ve finally beaten Indonesia,’” he continued. “But for us, the most important thing is to win the game and get three points.”

Victory is within reach for the 129th-ranked Azkals, who are 28 spots ahead of Indonesia in the world rankings, as Younghusband beamed at how they have come a long way since losing to their Southeast Asian neighbors four years ago.

“We control the ball more. We have more possession of the ball. We pass the ball more. We’re less direct than we’re used to be,” the Filipino-British standout said.

“We used to rely more on the counterattack; it’s different now: we like to have possession of the ball. And as long as you have the ball, you know the other team can’t score,” he added.

Another difference is the expectations on the Azkals then and now, which gives them added motivation.

“That time we have already exceeded expectations,” team manager Dan Palami said. “This time, we’re still getting to our goal.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos