MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Azkals midfielder James Younghusband believe the men’s national football team has what it takes to improve upon their historic finish in the 2010 ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup.
That tournament served as the Azkals’ coming out party, as they defeated reigning champions Vietnam en route to a place in the semi-finals.
In an interview with the official AFF website, Younghusband said he believes the Azkals can make it all the way to the finals of the 2012 edition of the tournament.
“The finals,” Younghusband responded when asked what he thinks would be a good finish for the Philippines in the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup.
The 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup will kick off on November 24 and will be co-hosted by Malaysia and Thailand.
“It is important that we look at each tournament and do better than what we did last time,” he said. “The last time, we made it to the semi-finals.”
“We want to get to the finals, that’s what we want to achieve,” Younghusband added.
He acknowledged that it will be a difficult task as the Azkals will go up against Asian powerhouses, including Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
“I think it is important that we show that the 2012 Suzuki Cup wasn’t a one-time thing, that it wasn’t a fluke. We have to show that we really have come a long way and that we are consistent,” Younghusband said.
Younghusband said their success in the 2010 Suzuki Cup came as a surprise, especially as they lacked preparation going into the tournament.
“To be honest, it was unexpected. Our preparation wasn’t the best... Our preparation wasn’t all that and there were some things off the pitch affecting the team,” he said.
Younghusband is especially proud that the Azkals’ success in that tournament inspired the growth and development of football in the Philippines.
“Before, there was no future in the sport,” he said. “We tried to show that football is for everyone, it is a sport that brings people together and we try to promote that.”
Younghusband is hopeful that the members of the 2010 Suzuki Cup squad will be able to play again in the 2012 tournament.
“The ones who played in the Suzuki Cup the last time, it will be great to have them all back,” he said.