MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Azkals assistant coach Bruno Baltazar was effusive in his praise of the national team after their AFC Challenge Cup campaign, but also emphasized that the Azkals cannot be satisfied with their second-place finish.
Baltazar, who joined Thomas Dooley's staff in March after coaching stints in Portugal, said the Azkals were more like a family than a football team.
"It's a unit, the team worked as a unit," he said in a press conference last Tuesday. "It's a family, and I'm really proud to belong to this family."
"I'm gonna say to you what I said to the players. My blood is not Pinoy, but my heart is already Pinoy. I'm really proud to be here, and you have 24 national heroes," he added.
But Baltazar also minced no words when he talked about the Azkals’ second-place finish in the Challenge Cup, which saw them bow to Palestine, 1-0, in the finals.
"We are sad, and the mentality is that we cannot be happy. I'm sorry to say that, we cannot be happy," he said.
"If we want to improve in football, we cannot be happy. We should be proud, but we cannot be happy with second place," he stressed. "In my education, second place is the first place of the losers."
"We have the medal of the losers, and this should be the mentality. We can’t be happy with our result, but we can be proud, and definitely we must be proud of this team."
Baltazar did express his pride in the players’ achievements, saying they deserved all the credit.
"We (the coaches) don’t make any miracles," he said. "We just help the players to understand what they can do, and make them believe in that. We can help them in training, with the drills, but they accomplish it."
"They do that, they believe that, and they did it. It's all about the players, and their talent and their wish to win, and to improve football in this country," he added.
Baltazar observed that it would have been so easy for the team to "fall apart," considering that many players came from different countries.
"We had five to six players from England, four to five players from Germany, Italian, Japanese, and it was really easy to fall apart because they could create groups, but no," he said.
"It's a family. It's not a football team. It's a family," Baltazar added.