Philippine Azkals came, saw and conquered!

By Barry Viloria

Azkals aiming higher, dreaming bigger. They came, they saw, they conquered. But as the Philippine Azkals prepare to conquer more matches, Coach Hans Michael Weiss said it would definitely take more than just tough training.

“To go the next level… requires more efforts, more passion in the work ethic, like it has been so far,” Weiss said in a luncheon held for the Azkals Monday at the ELJ Communications Center at the ABS-CBN Compound in Quezon City.

Fresh from their victory in the AFC Challenge Cup group stage, the Azkals will now advance to the tournament which will take place on March 2012.

The team will also be playing in a qualifiers home-and-away match in their World Cup 2014 campaign, with their qualifying matches to be held this June.

For their future stints, Weiss said it would be best for the team to modify their game play.

“We have to make adjustments, we have to train more, train harder, train more intensively,” he said.

Job well done

The Azkals managed to survive a do-or-die game against the Bangladesh Bengal Tigers, 3-0, to gain entry to the Challenge Cup tournament proper. The victory was considered an ‘epic’ improvement for the players’ performers, given their previous two group matches against Myanmar and Palestine that ended in draws.

Weiss said it was team coordination that boosted the Azkals’ chance of winning the game.

“I think the boys were listening not only to my words but to our concept, and to the way we wanted to play during the tournament,” he said.

“In the first two match(es), they did not show 100% but… in the last match, they came out and I want to congratulate the team and their fantastic effort. And for believing in them, and concentrating when it was most asked for,” Weiss said.

The German coach also said enthusiasm helped the Azkals survive when they were on the brink of elimination at the group stage.

“There was certainly some kind of pressure for the team in the last match but it also shows, most of them are in the stage where they can deal with pressure and understand what it means to play for a wonderful country like the Philippines,” he said.

Consistent support

The Azkals are considerably a primary force that has helped popularize football in the country recently. Aside from a strong following, the players have also garnered more support from public and private entities than what they were receiving years before.

Weiss, nevertheless, asked for more “merchandising, promotions, schooling” support as the Azkals strive to outpace more foreign rivals.

“[I’m] asking for people to come in to support us financially not just by words and headlines on newspapers but honestly, real funding programs especially for education,” he said.

Thankful, hopeful

Meanwhile, the triumphant Azkals remain grateful for those have have backed them in their stints.

Aside from the Philippine Football Federation and exclusive partner, ABS-CBN Sports, the players also thanked the team and coaches.

“It’s been a long road to our success. Everyone, coaching staff, all the players have been through, all the up’s and down’s we’ve been through the past years…” team captain Aly Borromeo said about the people the team are grateful to.

Borromeo vowed to prove more of what the Azkals are capable of as they enter more tournaments.

“We just continue to get better. We’re only starting, we have a long ladder to climb,” he said.

For now, Azkals’ manager Dan Palami is hoping the team remains resilient in their upcoming matches.

“In the future, I hope we become successful in our stints internationally,” he said.

Feeling particularly driven for the World Cup qualifiers middle of this year, Palami said: “We look forward to playing here in the Philippines, and showing our kababayans what the Azkals can do.” Source