BANGKOK, Thailand – The Philippine Azkals entered their last group stage match of the 2012 Suzuki Cup with no assurance of what their fate would be. The last challenge facing them: Myanmar.
The Azkals needed a win to ensure a ticket to the semifinals, while Myanmar needed a win and a Vietnam loss to Thailand.
The first half saw the Azkals dominate possession, but could not pierce through the Myanmar defense enough to produce a goal.
But just as the 2nd half got underway and less than a minute gone by, Jason de Jong shuttled a long pass to Phil Younghusband who bounced the ball off his thigh to evade his defender.
Younghusband passed two more defenders and side stepped the Myanmar keeper before his left foot strike led the ball to the back of the net.
He scored a goal for the Philippines, giving the Azkals a 1-0 lead.
But the Azkals’ offense did not end there, as Myanmar got desperate, every attack they had, the Filipinos still went for the counter-attacks.
In injury time when Carli de Murga found a streaking Angel Guirado, it just took a one on one effort from the Filipino-Spanish to evade the keeper and tuck away the Philippines' 2nd goal.
The match ended 2-0 and the Philippines beat Myanmar for the very first time in 10 tries. But more than that, they booked a ticket to the Suzuki Cup semifinals.
The players couldn’t help but celebrate with the die-hard Azkalero fans in the stands.
At the press conference, coach Michael Weiss commended his boys’ maturity and their successful handling of extreme pressure.
“[I’m] very, very happy because we felt the pressure to be in the semi-finals but the team mastered this pressure. That shows the maturity has come a long, long way and I think the best is yet to come. The Philippines is growing very fast and very positively in the future,” said Weiss.
It was a relief for Youngshusband, who underwent a scoring slump. His goal against Myanmar was his first since the Azkals’ friendly against Kuwait in October.
“It feels good, as a striker you get your confidence on goals, so for me on the personal level it’s good to get the goal. I’m just happy to get to the semi-finals, but on a persona level I mean my confidence will come from goals,” he said.
December 8 is the day the Philippines will host a first ever semi-finals match of a Suzuki Cup at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
All the Azkals fans are waiting for now is an opponent from Group B. But the Azkals have promised that their work is not yet done.