Singapore – Despite leading the Philippines to their second consecutive appearance in the last four of the AFF Suzuki Cup, coach Michael Weiss has admitted that there is still much work to be done before the country can be regarded as a real Asean footballing power.
Once the whipping boys of the competition, the Azkals face Singapore at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday in the second leg of their semi-final, knowing that they have the chance to make history as they could become the first Filipino side to reach the final of the regional competition, which has traditionally been dominated by Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia, who have contested all eight of the previous finals between them.
Weiss has described the AFF Suzuki Cup as a very prestigious, interesting and exciting tournament for the Asean region and is proud of his team for battling past the group stage once again. But the German feels that the Filipinos still have plenty of catching up to do to match the traditional powers of the region.
“I find this a very exciting and interesting tournament but I have said often in the past that we have to see where we came from in the Philippines and we have to be realistic because we are still in a developing and emerging process,” said Weiss.
“Countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand are still very clearly ahead of us. We could beat Singapore twice in friendlies in September and November but in a real competition like this, the matches are different.
“I see the tournament and all the developments under progress. We have to show continuous progress, we have to keep our efforts high, we have to be sharp, not waste any time and keep on moving.”
While he recognised that his team are within touching distance of the final, Weiss feels that the Azkal players have already done their nation proud in this year’s competition.
“Already reaching the semi-finals is a success I would say, and it shows that we are serious contenders but that doesn’t mean that we will automatically win the AFF Suzuki Cup anytime. That would be presumptuous,” he said.
“We just have to keep on going, maybe make some adjustments and rejuvenate the group and maybe go on and get more experience and get more time together. We also have to be serious in terms of additions to the coaching staff and the management staff and even the marketing because all these things come together.
“You can see in places like Myanmar, you can watch football 24 hours a day but the Philippines is just not yet there. So all of these things go together hand in hand and we just have to show continuous progress.”