Azkals’ shot at history

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Thursday, May 29, 2014


THE Philippine men’s national football team goes for a shot at history tonight as it takes on Palestine at midnigh

t for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup and a slot in the biggest football tournament in Asia–the Asian Cup.

This is the first time the Philippines is in a final of a major football tournament and coach Thomas Dooley knows that aside from the title, getting to compete against the top teams in Asia will be historic.

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“We want to play at the next level, that is not a secret. We came over here to win the Challenge Cup. We want to play at the next level which is the Asian Cup so we want to play against those big guys, not to win something, but to play with them and that is our biggest goal,” Dooley told the-afc.com.

The winner of the Challenge Cup will advance to the Asian Cup next year in Australia and will join Group D along with Iraq, Jordan and defending champions Japan.

The Azkals advanced to the final against Palestine—which they beat 4-3 in the battle for third in 2012—after beating host Maldives, 3-2, in extra time in the semifinals.

Dooley is confident that the team is still improving as the tournament winds down.

“We have had eight games and lost only one so far and the team is getting better and better. As the tournament goes on you are getting more tired and making more mistakes, but in terms of unity, the team has grown in the 10 days here. It is something we work on every day and the team is ready to fight against anything and to make the people proud,” said Dooley, who took over from coach Michael Weiss last January.

Before leaving for the Maldives, the Philippines played in a series of friendlies in the Middle East and its lone loss was against Azerbaijan.

The Filipinos finished at the top of Group B with seven points from two wins and a draw, while Palestine also had seven points to top Group A.

After drawing Afghanistan, the Philippines beat Laos, 2-0, Turkmenistan, 2-0, and Maldives, 4-3.

Palestine also beat Afghanistan, 2-0, in the other semifinal.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 30, 2014.

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