PH Azkals hope for breakthrough in AFF Suzuki Cup

PHOTO CAPTION: The Philippine Azkals, shown here during the Fifa World Cup/Asian Cup Qualifiers, are hoping that the arrival of naturalized striker Bienvenido Marañon will give them the added firepower that will finally result to a breakthrough win in this year’s AFF Suzuki Cup./iNews (N. Glenn Aragon/Photo courtesy of the PH Azkals)

(Bong Lozada/Inquirer Sports)

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines had several steady runs in the AFF Suzuki Cup reaching the semifinals four times in the last five tournaments, but breaking into the title match is still an elusive goal for the team.

This year’s edition, however, is seen as a new beginning for the Azkals as they’re roaring to finally get the breakthrough.

Striker Bienvenido Marañon, who recently received his Philippine citizenship, said the team’s goal is to make it to the first day of 2022, the final day of the Suzuki Cup, and try a crack at the title.

“I would like it to be until January 1 because that means that we did something great. And my family also supports me in this,” said Marañon, who plays for United City FC in the PFL, during a press conference that TAM DMV hosted.

Marañon, who will be making his Azkals debut in Singapore, added that they’re not just playing for the team but for the country.

“We will try to give our 200% every single game. We are not fighting for a team, we are fighting for the country. We are representing the country, and now it’s a different story.”

The Azkals are also making a sacrifice, on the personal level, during the Suzuki Cup as it means spending Christmas away from their families.

‘EXTRA CHRISTMAS PRESENT’

While holiday cheer may be spent on the pitch, head coach Scott Cooper said it’s a sacrifice they’re willing to make.

“If you’re going to be away from them at that time, then make it count is what I say and so let’s try and give everybody an extra Christmas present and enjoy ourselves,” said Cooper.

Left-back Martin Steuble shared a similar mentality with Cooper and that playing for the flag ultimately offsets the sacrifice they are going to make.

“I’ve spoken about the sacrifice for the players to make it here, but for us players, it’s a huge honor to be called up to play for the Filipino team,” said Steuble. “The focus is on football and on the Azkals, so we’ll celebrate Christmas next year and in the following year for sure.” (Bong Lozada/Inquirer Sports)

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