MANILA – Azkals coach Thomas Dooley said there’s nothing to be ashamed of despite the team’s heart breaking 0-1 loss to Palestine in the finals of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup
He said the Filipinos did everything they could but the Palestinians were tough competitors.
"It was a tough game. The boys played hard and played good and I am proud of everyone who was in the team who played at this tournament," said Dooley during the post-game press conference.
The Azkals, who were forced to settle for second place in the Asian Cup qualifier, showed steady improvement from the group stage until the semis.
They held Afghanistan to a goalless draw before stringing back-to-back victories over Laos and Turkmenistan. In the semifinals, they engaged host team Maldives in a thrilling 3-2 win.
"We had a good tournament, we had a good team, we just didn't get the final result we were looking for,” said Dooley, who took over the coaching reins last February.
He also admitted he missed the target he was after as national team coach.
"My task was to win the Challenge Cup and I didn't," said Dooley.
However, the American-German coach said they were able to accomplish something, despite losing to Palestine.
The second place finish in the tournament is already a historical feat in itself, and they have planted the seeds for a stronger team, said Dooley.
"I was trying to build something with the team and I think we did a pretty good job through to the final, so I think this team has a bright future. If we continue to work hard and find more young players, I think we will have a great future," he said.
He said that the likes of Daisuke Sato, Amani Aguinaldo, OJ Porteria and Kenshiro Daniels will be the lifeblood of the future national squad.
"Sato is 19 years old, Amani is 19 years old, and OJ and Ken who came in, they have a future in the national team,” said Dooley. "The young players are the future, so we have to find players and we have to develop the players.”
“It doesn't mean we want to kick the old players out, but maybe the pace of the game will be better and it is good to have a young average age, especially with young players who can develop." – With reports from TJ Manotoc, ABS-CBN News and The AFC.com