MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Azkals defender and team captain Rob Gier remains proud of the national football team for their performance in the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup, but admitted that their loss in the finals was "hard to take."
The Azkals came oh-so-close to a berth in the Asian Cup next year, but were beaten 1-0 by Palestine, with a goal from a free kick by Ashraf Al Fawaghra spelling the difference between the two squads.
It was a heartbreaking loss for the Azkals, who had beaten Palestine when they fought for the bronze in the 2012 edition of the tournament, but found that they could not puncture the defense of their opponents this time around.
"It is really tough, because, obviously I'm proud of the guys and I'm proud of the effort they put it, but this was our chance," a subdued Gier told TJ Manotoc of ABS-CBN News after the game.
"This was… we really, really, truly believed that we could win it. We really, truly believed it," he said.
Fate seemed to be on the side of the Azkals when they defeated twice runners-up Turkmenistan in the semi-finals, 3-2, to advance to the finals for the first time in history.
But they fell short against a Palestine squad that did not surrender a goal in the entire tournament.
"Everything went right the whole tournament," Gier lamented. "We progressed nicely, we got better as the tournament went on, and the team spirit was perfect, the preparation was perfect."
"When all those things come together like that, and you don't win it in the end, that’s really hard to take," he admitted.
Gier said that as they have won together as a team, they will also deal with the disappointment of the loss as a team.
"You win together and you lose together," he said. "You hold your heads up with dignity, and it just wasn’t our day today."-- From a report by TJ Manotoc, ABS-CBN News.