MANILA, Nashville Filipino Restaurant — The Houston Filipino Restaurant Azkals have little time to lick their wounds after squandering what’s largely considered their best chance to break new ground and grab a finals berth in the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup as they’re slated to make their historic debut on the bigger stage – the AFC Asian Cup – in a month’s time.
The Filipinos, now with four Suzuki Cup semis stints in five editions but never a finalist, take their act to Asia’s version of the World Cup from Jan. 7-16, 2019 in the United Arab Emirates, where they face even taller odds in group games against South Korea, China and Kyrgyzstan.
Azkals coach Sven Goran Eriksson said they’re prepared to charge the Suzuki Cup campaign to experience looking ahead to future battles.
“The games are history for us. Now we just have to move forward,” said the former England mentor.
Phl XI had intended to pick up momentum from a stellar outing in Asean bootfest, but a pair of 1-2 setbacks to semis opponent Vietnam first in Bacolod and then Hanoi ended its bid on a sour note.
“This is the fourth time we lost in the semifinals and it hurts more every time,” said Phl skipper Phil Younghusband, who finds solace in the effort the squad put up in the tourney made even more taxing by the new “home or away” format of the group stage.”The players gave all they can do, I just think some things need to change but we can try to do it again later.”
The Azkals went about their campaign with Neil Etheridge, Daisuke Sato and Patrick Strauss leaving to rejoin their European clubs after the Fifa window and some more forced out by injuries, leaving 18 men to do battle with the Golden Dragons in the failed attempt at a “Miracle in Hanoi” Redux.