THE unexpectedly tough first step is already behind them, but it’s a long way to go for the Azkals in their quest for Asian supremacy.
The Philippine men’s football team retained the Philippine Peace Cup on Tuesday night at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City with a win against Pakistan in a performance that once again brought out the never-say-die attitude that has been a hallmark of the team in its rise to prominence.
Now the Filipino booters are expected to work on weaknesses that were exposed in their Peace Cup campaign.
“It’s a good win (over Pakistan), but we still have problems with fitness of players, creativity and keeping the ball,” Azkals coach Michael Weiss said.
The Peace Cup was certainly a great way to kick off the Azkals’ preparations for the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup set seven months from now in the Maldives.
“This is a small victory but this is a sweet victory,” Azkals team manager Dan Palami said. “We should not lose sight of the bigger picture which is the Challenge Cup.”
While it came against lower-ranked foes, the Peace Cup victory was still remarkable as the Filipino booters, spearheaded by Filipino-German Stephan Schrock, had to go overcome an opening hiccup to retain the title.
The heavily favored Filipino booters suffered a blow after they lost to Chinese Taipei, 1-2, in the opener last Friday. But with luck on their side, Pakistan’s 1-0 win over the Taiwanese last Sunday presented the hosts an opportunity that they capitalized on.
And with a no-tomorrow mindset, the Azkals rallied from an early deficit to defeat Pakistan, 3-1, on Tuesday to complete another classic run.
“We want to win that championship and to go there and to do that will take more than just a win in the Peace Cup as it will take a lot of effort from the stakeholders of the sport,” Palami added of the Challenge Cup, which stakes a single ticket to the more prestigious AFC Asian Cup in 2015.
The Azkals continue their buildup next month with a Middle East tour that will see them take part in two Fifa international friendlies, against United Arab Emirates on November 9 in Abu Dhabi and six days later versus India, also on the opponent’s turf.