By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter
THE PHILIPPINE men’s national football team plays its final game in group play in the ongoing AFF Suzuki Cup on Sunday against Indonesia with its coach high on their chances after seeing his wards perform well against tournament favorite and defending champion Thailand last time around.
An all-important match, the Philippine Azkals need to have a favorable result on Nov. 25 against host Indonesia to give its push to make it to the next round of the regional tournament a huge boost.
Currently, the Philippines is at joint first place in Group B with Thailand with seven points after three matches, just one point up on third-running Singapore.
Thailand is to face Singapore in a key match as well on Sunday.
In the Suzuki Cup, the top two teams from each group at the end of the classification round advance to the crossover semifinals.
Against Thailand on Wednesday at the Panaad Park and Football Stadium in Bacolod City, the Azkals did their Suzuki Cup cause a favor by digging deep to hack out a 1-1 draw and share the spoils with Thailand and stay at the top of the heap.
Substitute Jovin Bedic was the game hero for the Philippines as he scored the equalizer in the 81st minute, three minutes after coming in for Stephan Palla, completing their fight back after going a goal down in the 56th minute.
The Azkals’ resilience and spirit in their play against the War Elephants did not go unnoticed with coach Sven-Goran Eriksson lauding his players and highlighting the potential of the team moving forward.
“I like what I saw today. Thailand, I understand, is the favorite to win this group. If you play like that against the favorites you have to feel good about yourself and be proud, “Mr. Eriksson said in the post-match press conference .
“It was a good match. Both sides wanted to play football out there. Good chances for them but we created more chances than them. I think Thailand is more happy with the draw than us but 1-1 is okay. And the most important for me as a coach is that I saw that we can play very good football, defending and attacking. And we did it today for 90 minutes than the last two games. I’m happy for our players,” he added.
The World Cup coach went on to say that he likes where the Azkals are at in the standings and hopes they get to complete the task of going deeper.
“We’re not yet in the semifinals but we have one foot or half a foot in there,” he said.
The Philippines-Indonesia match will be shown live over ESPN5 and tv5.com.ph at 8 p.m.