‘Shattered dreams’

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Saturday, May 31, 2014


THE Philippines’ dream of joining the best in Asia may just have to wait after failing to grab the last slot of the Asian Cup following a 1-0 loss to Palestine in a tense Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup final Friday at the National Stadium in Male, Maldives.

It was a rematch of the last AFC Challenge Cup third place match back in 2012, but this time it turned out differently with the Palestinians having the edge. This year was the final staging of the Challenge Cup, a tournament for developing football nations in Asia.

After a scoreless first half with Roland Muller making four fine saves, the tournament’s leading scorer Ashraf Alfawaghra converted a free kick from 25 yards past Muller in the 59th minute.

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The Azklals tried to push for an equalizer but just felt short against Palestine, which will join Iraq, Jordan and Japan in the Asian Cup next year.

Despite the loss coach Thomas Dooley is optimistic of the Azkals future.

“My task was to win the Challenge Cup and I didn’t,” Dooley told the AFC Challenge Cup 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 final, 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.”

The Philippines beat Palestine, 4-3, in their previous encounter two years ago and the Azkals took third place in the AFC Challenge Cup in 2012.

This is the Philippines highest finish in the Challenge Cup since its inception in 2006. It was also the best result for Palestine.

“It was a tough game. The boys played hard and played good and I am proud of everyone who was in the team who played at this tournament,” Dooley said. “We had a good tournament; we just didn’t get the final result we were looking for. Palestine has a great team and nobody scored against them. We tried to, and we were close a couple of times, but it didn’t work out. But overall, I am happy with the way they team played at this tournament.” (EKA)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 01, 2014.

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