Singapore – Philippines coach Michael Weiss has accepted that his side came out second best in their AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final against Singapore but they will have little time to dwell on their 1-0 aggregate defeat as they prepare for their next big challenge in March.
Formerly the whipping boys of the competition, the Azkals reached the last four for the second consecutive time this year only to go down to a 19th minute strike by Khairul Amri at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday.
While the visitors had plenty of time to get back into the match, they were able to create very little against the well-drilled defence of the Lions.
Weiss felt that the experience of the Singapore side ultimately overcame his own team’s hunger for success.
“I think that they had an extra portion of experience, cleverness and coolness and also some deserved luck and also good preparation so I think that they were the deserved winners,” said the German.
“We have to be honest, we didn’t produce too many chances and that was the thing that was missing. Our opponents also didn’t create too much but overall, I would say that they deserved it.
“One team has to go home and unfortunately it is us. It would have been a fantastic achievement if we had reached the final but that’s the way it is and in sports, you have to show dignity and grace when you lose and just continue.”
Weiss felt that Singapore’s physical approach made things very difficult for his side to get into the game.
“We saw today that Singapore were very aggressive, especially on our number 10, Phil Younghusband, but no fouls were called and no yellow cards were shown for fairly obvious fouls,” he said.
“However, we don’t want to bring the referee into this because it’s normal when you’re playing in the semi-finals that the home team takes these types of advantages. That was their strategy – to get our striker out of the game and not let us come into the game.
“I think that you can only play as your opponents allow you and they didn’t allow much. The headers were impossible to win and on the ground, they were also very tight on the man and they didn’t allow many things.”
The Azkals boss also lamented the loss of focus by his side that resulted in Amri scoring the only goal of the game off a quickly-taken free-kick by Shahdan Sulaiman.
“Their goal was a gift on our side. We have been talking for the past 10 days when we were preparing to play against Singapore about set pieces, set pieces, set pieces and then we gave away a goal on such a simple set piece.
“It was a very nice goal but it should not have happened.”
Weiss hopes that the lessons learnt from this year’s AFF Suzuki Cup will benefit his side when they host a qualification group for the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup three months from now.
“We do not have too much time to mourn because in mid-January, we will have to start preparing for the AFC Challenge Cup,” he explained.
“It’s a competition for the emerging nations in Asia and our goal is to win our qualification group and to get top place on home soil so that we can be one of the top eight sides that qualify for the final in 2014. Hopefully, we can win that tournament and qualify for the Asian Cup in 2015.
“But to achieve that, we have to work hard especially on the offensive side, to get stronger, to try to get more ideas up front and to be more resilient and physically stronger.
“Overall, I think it was a good achievement for us to reach this semi-final and hopefully we can build on this experience and prepare stronger teams with maybe some fresh young faces for the AFC Challenge Cup in the Philippines in March.”