MANILA, Philippines - The Azkals should not be disheartened by their blown chance to achieve a historic first-ever finals stint in the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup but instead use this setback to fuel their desire to create a bigger impact in the next battles ahead.
“Disappointing kasi target talaga namin ang makapasok sa finals. Konting kayod na lang sana, pero ayun, siguro hindi talaga para sa atin ang finals. Kailangang tanggapin at bumawi na lang next time (It’s disappointing because we were that close to making the finals. But it’s not meant for us so we just have to accept it and bounce back in the next tournament),” Phl goalkeeper Ed Sacapaño said in an interview over Sports Radio.
Sacapaño and the Azkals fell a goal short of beating Singapore for a place in the championship stage, dropping a numbing 0-1 setback in the second leg to the Lions before a hostile crowd at Jalan Besar Stadium. Since they held the Lions without an away goal in the first leg in Manila, they needed only a scoring draw to snag a finals berth.
“Dapat heads up kami, hindi kailangang bumaba ang morale namin kasi marami pang tournament na darating. Magprepara na lang kami for Challenge Cup (qualifiers) this coming March (We have to keep our heads high and not feel demoralized. There are many tournaments to come starting with the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers this March in Manila and we’ll have to prepare for that),” he added.
Sacapaño came into his own in the Suzuki Cup, ably filling in for absent custodians Neil Etheridge and Roland Muller.
“Actually, talagang kaya ko naman; wala lang talaga akong break dati. Tanggap ko naman pero kahit andyan si Neil, lagi pa rin akong naghahanda para in case mabigyan ng break. Ayun nagka-break sa Suzuki Cup at nadala naman ang team sa semifinals (I really believe I can play at this level, if given the break. I accept my role as backup to Etheridge but I still prepare hard in case my break will come. And it came in the Suzuki Cup and we reached the semis with me as goalkeeper),” he said.
Following an opening day 1-2 loss to Thailand, Sacapaño maintained a clean sheet for the next three matches against Vietnam, Myanmar and Singapore. Then came that 19th-minute game-winner by Khairul Amri off a free kick in the second leg that sent the Azkals packing.
“Nag-oorganize ako ng wall so tapos yung referee hindi nag-whistle bago ibigay ang bola. Nagulat na lang ako nang sipain ng Singapore yung bola sa kasama nila sa harapan. Wala ako sa pwesto at yung depensa ko hindi rin nakagalaw kasi nagulat rin sila. Wala talaga ako sa pwesto at hindi ko nakita.” I was organizing the defensive wall and out of position. We were surprised that the referee did not whistle before the action and before we knew it, they passed the ball quickly and fired a shot. My defenders couldn’t react as well and I was out of position and didn’t see that coming” he said.
Sacapaño lay on the field in agony after the referee signaled the end of the match, feeling he let his side down.
“Ang pinakamagandang balita sa akin is after the game, sinabi sa akin ng teammates ko na it’s not your fault, maganda raw ang lahat ng game ko so ganoon talaga. Siguro doon ako nabuhayan ng loob (The best news for me is that my teammates didn’t blame me for the loss and they told me I did well the entire tournament. That lifted my spirits again),” he said.