HANOI – He has been there since the start of the rise of the Philippine men’s football team, but Dan Palami swore the performance against Indonesia in the AFF Suzuki Cup on Tuesday was the best he has seen from the Azkals.
And it was a longtime coming for the Azkals manager, who marveled at the Filipino booters’ showing in a stunning 4-0 shutout of the Indonesians that secured their place in the next round.
“I think that was the best game I’ve seen the Azkals play ever since I took over management,” Palami said.
That says a lot considering how many matches he has seen since starting to bankroll the squad in early 2010.
“I’ve had a lot of caps already on the bench,” Palami said with a smile.
It was indeed an amazing performance from the Azkals on both ends, defending well on set pieces and counterattacks, while proving clinical on offense.
As a result, the Filipino booters have now scored eight goals in two matches with still a group-stage match on hand —impressively surpassing their scoring total in the last two editions of Southeast Asia’s showpiece competition combined.
“Sometimes it makes me ask the question: ‘Where we really that good or were they just bad?’” Palami said. “But then, you look at how we played the ball, the possession.”
Azkals coach Thomas Dooley has long waited to see this type of game-long brilliance from his wards.
“You see it all the time here and there, but not the whole ninety minutes,” the German-American mentor said. “But this was a game were we dominated the whole ninety minutes.”
Dooley said he never saw the Indonesians, who have tormented the Filipinos for eight decades, hold an advantage in any aspect of the match.
“This is what winners are made of — just fighting for each other, playing with each other, never panicking, and just controlling the game.”
But the Azkals, who go for the Group A sweep against host Vietnam on Friday, are well aware it’s still a long way to go.