Thomas Dooley,the American head coach of the Philippine Azkals said that they could look on the positive things and learn from the bitter 0-3 loss they absorbed from Thailand’s War Elephants in the second leg of the semifinals of the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok on Wednesday.
“We can go back home tonight with our heads held high because we played against a team [Thailand] which was at a higher level,” Dooley told The Manila Times in a phone interview on Thursday. “But I’m happy with the way we played overall [in the tournament].”
The Azkals beat Laos (4-1) and Indonesia (4-0) before losing to Vietnam (1-3) in the group stage to bag a semifinals berth. They forced a scoreless draw to the Thais in the first leg of the semifinals at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila last week.
Dooley also commended his wards for soundly beating Indonesia 4-0 in the group stage – the most outstanding win by the Azkals this year. The victory was the first the Philippines posted over Indonesia after 80 years.
“So far I don’t know yet what will be our plan for next year,” added Dooley.
Meanwhile, retired Azkal “Chieffy” Caligdong called on his compatriots to embrace football.
“There are only few places here in our country that play football. We need to embrace the sport because Filipinos could excel in this sport. Thailand loves this sport very much and you saw how many fans went to the stadium,” said Caligdong.
Chanathip Songkrasin opened the scoring in the second leg of the semifinals after only seven minutes and Kroekrit Taweekarn rewarded Thailand’s dominance with a second goal 12 minutes after the interval.
The visitors were reduced to 10 men when Martin Steuble was sent off before Kroekrit sealed a 3-0 aggregate victory with his second of the night four minutes from time.
Thailand has won the competition three times but they will be looking to end a 12-year drought in the final, which kicks off with the first-leg in Bangkok next Wednesday.
The Thais were frustrated in a goalless draw in the first leg in Manila but they dominated from the opening whistle in Bangkok and broke the deadlock early on as a cross from the left by Kroekrit was knocked down in the box by Narubadin Weerawat-nodom to an unmarked Chanathip who smashed the ball into the bottom corner of the Philippines net.
The hosts were all over their opponents in the opening half but they wasted a chance to extend their advantage when Prakit Deeprom failed to get a shot away when he was sent clear on goal just before half-time.
However, Prakit would make up for that in the 57th minute when he sent a superb pass from the center circle into the path of Koekrit, who shook off the attention of defender Simone Rota before turning a low shot past Philippines goalkeeper Patrick Deyto.
The Philippine were beaten in the previous two AFF Suzuki Cup semifinals in 2010 and 2012 and their hopes of rescuing the match all but disappeared when Steuble received his second yellow card of the match with eight minutes left.
Kroekrit then applied the finishing touch in the 86th minute as he received a pass from Sarach Yooyen on the left of the Philippines box and stepped inside a challenge before steering the ball past Deyto.
With report from AFP