MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Azkals are happy to accomplish their mission of returning to the Suzuki Cup semis through their successful campaign in the tournament’s group stage.
This means they will get the chance to play in front of the home crowd in Manila through the knockout stage’s home-and-away format.
The Philippines started their campaign with a 2-1 loss to Thailand in their group opener, but bounced back with consecutive victories over Vietnam (1-0) and Myanmar (2-0).
“It is brilliant for Philippine football that we have qualified for the semis...the whole team is ecstatic. We lost the opening game but bounced back really strong and showed some real team spirit,” said James Younghusband in Suzuki Cup’s official website.
The Filipinos will play their home game against Group B winner on December 8 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The away game takes place at their opponent’s turf on December 12.
“We are very happy that we get to bring international football back to the Philippines and get to play in our home stadium,” said Younghusband.
The Philippines first qualified for the Suzuki Cup semis in 2010 and went up against Indonesia.
But because the tournament organizers could not find a suitable venue for the Azkals’ home game, the Filipinos were forced to forfeit home advantage.
The Azkals were forced to face Indonesia at Jakarta’s Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, twice losing to the Indonesian Eagles, 1-0.
Co-team skipper Chieffy Caligdong said having a Suzuki Cup home game is a dream come true.
Caligdong, who was also part of the Azkals’ 2010 lineup, said the series will help further promote football in the Philippines.
“It will be the first time in our history that we have played a semi-final of the AFF Suzuki Cup at home,” he said.
“It is a dream come true that we have a home game, it is good for us and the game in the Philippines.” – With a report from TJ Manotoc, ABS-CBN News