By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter
THE Philippine men’s national football team will make its way back to the semifinals of the AFF Suzuki Cup after hacking out a 0-0 draw against Indonesia on the final day of group play on Sunday at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta.
Needing at least a draw to advance to the next round of the regional tournament, the Philippine Azkals still tried to get a win but eventually settled for a draw after the host team came out fighting despite already out of the race in Group B heading into the contest.
The two teams started the match aggressively, putting themselves in solid scoring opportunities in the opening half but could not complete them.
Unfortunately for the Azkals they would lose captain Phil Younghusband in the first half after clashing heads with an Indonesian player.
He was taken off the field then brought to the hospital after.
In the second half, the back-and-forth between the two teams continued.
But like in the opening 45 minutes no goals would be scored en route to the nil-nil draw.
The Philippines’ cause was helped by the 3-0 defeat of third-running Singapore at the hands of Group B leader Thailand, played near simultaneously as that between the Azkals and Indonesia.
“We did not play well but the most important thing is won the game,” said Azkals coach Sven-Goran Eriksson post-game.
“I think we have a week before our next game and it will be good for us,” added the coach, whose wards are set to face Vietnam in the home-and-away semifinals starting on Dec. 2.
In the last AFF Suzuki Cup in 2016, the Philippines, which was a co-host then, failed to go beyond the group stage, halting a streak of three appearances in the semifinals of the biennial tournament dating back to 2010.