WHEN the Philippine Azkals return to the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Indonesia it will be an entirely different situation than the last time they went there for an AFF Suzuki Cup game.
The Azkals played in the stadium in 2010 when they were mere minnows in the Asean football scene who were eager to prove themselves in the region. They got eliminated by Indonesia, 2-0, on aggregate.
The Filipino footballers now return to Jakarta as sharks, favored to go through to the semifinals – backed by a proven and tested coach in Sven Goran Erikkson and confidence high as they remain unscathed even after a clash against Asean powerhouse Thailand.
“I know it brings back some good memories. I think that game was very different from tomorrow. We have the chance to go through the semifinal and Indonesia doesn’t have,” said team skipper Phil Younghusband, one of the three remaining players from the 2010 team.
“It’s very difficult compare or take anything from that. But I remember the atmosphere here and a lot of us were new to that kind of pressure. Different game different time but hopefully a different result,” he added.
Longtime team benefactor Dan Palami remembers that day like it was yesterday, and he’s confident that they can get a different result this time when they return to Indonesia on Sunday in the final game in Group B of the 2018 Suzuki Cup.
A win, or a draw coupled with a Singapore loss to Thailand, will push the Philippines to the semis
“It certainly feels that way, it’s still in the group stage pero parang it brings back a lot of memories since that time na naglaro kami doon. I’m just hoping that it would yield a different result,” said Palami.
“I think the team si ready to give us that. With the way we’re playing, based on the trend of how we play, we can achieve victory in Indonesia,” he added.
While it’s an entirely different situation now between the two teams, what won’t change is the hostile atmosphere that’s expected from the home crowd in a stadium that can seat up to 77,000 people
“We cannot take for granted yung support ng home nila, na sa pagkadami dami nila will always give them the extra boost,” Palami continued.
“We’re just hoping that the players be able to cope with it and play according to how we should play.”