Philippine Football Peace Cup Champions: AZKALS

Congratulations to the Philippine Azkals for winning the Philippine Football Peace Cup. Another milestone and a step forward for Philippine football. While the Azkals were overwhelming favorites for this tournament, they still needed to prove that point nonetheless and they did so emphatically and convincingly.

Three wins, 9 goals scored in 3 matches and conceding only one goal was quite a strong message sent out by our team. It wasn't just about winning their matches; it was also about the manner in which they were won - with near total dominance. It was a joy to watch our team play that way. Okay, the fluffed chances in front of goal, especially in the match against Guam, was a bit frustrating at times. However, the way our midfield controlled the match, dictated the tempo and ensured that our makeshift backline wasn't troubled too much was a welcome change from our usual backs to the wall and spirited style of play. It's a sign of progress and it was vital that this point was made.

While many among us will be savoring this victory and achievement, there are unfortunately those who claim all this is irrelevant due to the low quality of the opposition. Yet that is where the emphatic and dominating performance of our team smashes that argument. Since when has the Philippine national football team dominated and steamrollered opponents in those manner? The Azkals were expected to win this tournament, and they did. In addition to meeting that expectation, they also proved clearly that the progress and achievements since 2010 is not a fluke. 

Notwithstanding the low quality opposition, a look at our team will also show that this was more of a "B" team. Many of our pedigreed players from Europe weren't present, along with a number of veterans. Our defense was makeshift, with only one regular center back who was suffering from a groin injury and didn't even get to play in the crucial final match. Several young players, with emphasis on young, got their first official cap in this tournament. Yet the team acquitted themselves very well and showed how deep our bench has become and that there is quality back-up available if the regular veterans are not available.

Photo via interaksyon.com
No, the naysayers can't take away the satisfaction this victory has given us Pinoy football fans. Also, this wasn't just about the feel-good factor of being champions and preparations for a much bigger prize, the AFF Suzuki Cup. This was also about the future. A number of the young players who shone in this tournament will be crucial in helping sustain the progress Philippine football is making, in battling for our flag and colors in campaigns to come. 

Of course, they have yet to be tested against tougher opponents and that's what the Bahrain training camp and the matches against Bahrain, Kuwait and Singapore are for, to toughen them up and prepare them for the much more difficult opponents they'll be facing in the Suzuki Cup. 

In the meantime, let's all enjoy this moment and thank you Philippine Azkals. We are the Peace Cup Champions! Campeones, campeones! Oe! Oe! Oe!

30 September 2012, Moira G Gallaga©