Philippine national men’s football coach Hans Michael Weiss wants Filipinos to tone down their high expectations to the team a few months before the 2012 ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup.
“To now think that the Philippines are the kings of Southeast Asia, that’s very funny,” Weiss said, adding that the recent performances of neighboring countries like Malaysia, which almost scored an upset against English Premier League squad Arsenal before yielding a 2-1 loss last Tuesday, make the tournament tougher for them.
Long the whipping boys in the region, the Azkals made a Cinderella run in the tournament two years ago, reaching the semifinals before bowing out to eventual runner-up Indonesia.
Weiss said that the 2010 squad took advantage of the many lucky opportunities that came its way en route to the historic feat. The Azkals had to salvage a scoreless draw Cambodia in their last match in the qualifiers just to make it to the main competition.
They forced a 1-1 draw against Singapore in the group stages of the tournament, thanks to a last minute goal by Chris Greatwich. They also endured some scary moments before pulling off a 2-0 upset over then defending titlists Vietnam to advance to the semifinals.
“2010 was a once in a lifetime story,” Weiss said. “They were very lucky in the last minute.”
However, the German coach also believes that the team has become stronger with new players as well as the system it currently employs. Under Weiss, the Azkals added foreign-based players such as Filipino-German Stephan Schrock and Filipino-Spanish Angel Guirado, among others. They also moved away from a being defensive-oriented team to an offensive-minded squad which attacks the field more to get chances at the goal.
“We are in a much higher level now,” Weiss said. “Azkals are not the same in 2010 anymore.”
The Azkals will face Thailand on Nov. 24, Vietnam on Nov. 27, and the top team of the qualifiers on Nov. 30 in Group A. They need to finish in the top two to advance to the semifinals against the two best squads in Group B, which features defending champions Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the runner-up of the tournament qualifiers.
The 2012 Suzuki Cup will be co-hosted by Malaysia and Thailand from Nov. 24 to Dec. 22 and will be aired on AKTV.