Despite the crushing disappointment of losing in the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup for a third straight time, Philippines coach Thomas Dooley believes that the Azkals can take a lot of positives out of the tournament.
Thailand ended the dream of a first final for the former whipping boys turned genuine title contenders with an impressive 3-0 victory in front of a frenzied, sell-out crowd at Bangkok’s Rajamangala Stadium on Wednesday.
The Philippines defended stoutly and tried to snatch a goal on the counter attack but Thailand were simply too good for them on the night with the opener from young maestro Chanathip “Messi J” Songkrasin and a second-half brace from Kroekrit Thawikan sealing a spot in the final for the seventh time.
“We played against a team (on Wednesday) that was kind of a little bit of everything at a different level,” said Dooley, the former captain of the United States. “When you are playing against a good team, backed by a big crowd, everything has to fall into place and for us it did not.”
Philippines created a little bit of history in Group A action when they trounced Indonesia 4-0 for their first victory over them in 80 years to reach the last four with a game to spare after an opening 4-1 victory over Laos.
“Overall I am happy with the way we played and the results we had in the tournament,” said Dooley. “After 80 years we won against Indonesia - it was an outstanding result and maybe the best game we played this year.
“And then we played Thailand at home and came away with a 0-0 draw. I can say we can go back home with our heads held high.”
Philippines came into the AFF Suzuki Cup as the top-rated team in ASEAN at 128th but Dooley said that the FIFA World Ranking meant nothing in the heat of battle.
“The FIFA World Ranking is never really a measurement of where things stand,” he said. “You do not play the same games. Some teams play more games, some less and the opposition is of a different standard. The FIFA rankings do not show which team is better and which is not.”
While highly complimentary about the youthful Thailand side that attacked at pace and in numbers, Dooley stopped short of tipping them to win a record-equalling fourth AFF Suzuki Cup.
“They are one of the strongest teams I have seen in the tournament but football is a case of 50-50,” he added. “Vietnam is a great team and Thailand is a great team that deserved to win (against us) but the Cup I cannot really say.”*affsuzukicup
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