The Philippines’ road to the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup started one muggy night at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City and culminated in Kathmandu, Nepal. Along the way, the Azkals rewrote history yet again and defied tremendous odds in finishing a very respectable third place in the tournament.
Here are five things we learned from the Azkals’ campaign.
1. Phil Younghusband can score goals when it counts
The Loyola Meralco Sparks striker led the Philippines’ attack with six goals to his name, en route to winning the tournament’s Golden Boot. The Azkals’ defensive strategy oftentimes required him to lead the line by his lonesome, and Phil Younghusband duly delivered the goods with aplomb.
Showing deft touches and a keen eye for goal, he was undoubtedly a marked man especially going into the latter stages of the competition. Yet impressively, he still found the back of the net when the team needed it most. Benefitting from playing regularly in the UFL, Younghusband is in the form of his life.
Absent from the Challenge Cup qualifying group stages last year in Myanmar, Phil made up for lost time as his excellent interplay with older brother James and the rejuvenated Angel Guirado caused havoc to the opposing team’s defense.
The bronze medal and the Golden Boot Award were his first pieces of silverware in international competition. Don’t bet on them being the last ones.