By JONAS TERRADO
Philippine Azkals coach Stewart Hall hailed the performance of his squad in the 7-0 romp of Timor-Leste that brought life back to their semifinal ambitions in the AFF Suzuki Cup 2020.
The Azkals put up six goals in the first half of the match held at Singapore’s National Stadium Saturday on their way to producing the country’s biggest win in the history of Southeast Asia’s biggest football tournament.
Hall said it was a good way for the team to regain some lost confidence after the Philippines opened the tournament with a 2-1 win over host Singapore three nights prior.
“Mentally, we achieved all of our objectives. So that’s a big, big plus,” Hall said in the post-match press conference.
Martin Steuble’s converted attempt from long range in the 21st minute set the stage for a dominant showing for the Azkals, who also got goals from Amin Nazari, veterans Angel Guirado and Patrick Reichelt and new players Jesper Nyholm and Bienvenido Maranon.
A second half goal by Kevin Ingreso was only cosmetic as the final score eclipsed the Azkals’ 4-0 win over Indonesia in the 2014 Suzuki Cup group stage.
The win served as a good preparation for the crucial match against Thailand, one of the tournament favorites, on Tuesday.
Unlike the recent result and even the Singapore meeting, the next match will likely be a more difficult battle for the Azkals, who will need to score an upset in order to gain an inside track at the semis.
That is why the English coach was pleased to see the team meet all pre-match plans with Thailand also in mind.
“I told the players of our three targets,” Hall said. “First, win the game because we need three points desperately to get back in the game. Second, score goals because we need goal difference because it may come down to goal difference.
“The third one, get in front early because I want to make substitutions, I want to use 16 players. So those are the three objectives and we did it. The players did it.
“We started fast. We started strong. We pressed them really well high up which was the plan. We won the ball and we moved it quickly. We crossed it into dangerous areas. We played to two strikers because we needed to win and we needed goals and then we got the results,” added Hall.
The Azkals climbed to third in Group A despite tying Myanmar at three points due to advantage on goal difference.
Myanmar lost 3-0 to Thailand, which equaled the six points produced by Singapore through two matches.