THE Philippine Azkals absorbed a 0-1 defeat from Palestinian booters on Saturday in the finals of 2014 Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup at the Male National Stadium in Maldives.
The first half of the match was scoreless and it was Ashraf Alfawaghra who notched the goal at the 58th minute mark of the second half. The Azkals’ attempt to score was nullified by the Palestinians’ tough defensive wall inside the box in the remaining minutes of the game.
The win earned Palestine a ticket to the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia, where they will be playing against powerhouse squads like Japan, Jordan, and Iraq in Group D.
Despite the loss, Azkals’ American coach Thomas Dooley believes that his wards are facing a bright future in the next few years. He also considered this year’s Challenge Cup campaign a historic ending.
“My task was to win the Challenge Cup and I didn’t,” Dooley, who replaced previous German coach Hans Michael Weiss in February said in a statement posted in the AFC website.
“But on the other hand, I was trying to build something with the team and I think we did a pretty good job through to the finals, so I think this team has a bright future. If we continue to work hard and find more young players, I think we will have a great future.”
Despite the defeat, the Azkals succeeded in surpassing their third place finish in the 2012 Challenge Cup by reaching the meet’s finals this year.
The Azkals drew with Afghanistan (0-0) in their first game before beating Laos (2-0) and Turkmenistan (2-0) in the elimination round to earn seven points and the lead in Group B. They scored a 3-2 victory over host Maldives in the semifinals to reach the finals.
Josef T. Ramos