MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines will be heading to Hanoi, Vietnam in December after winding up second to host Laos in the Suzuki Cup qualifying tournament at the National Stadium, Vientiane, Tuesday night.
The RP booters were edged out by Laos, 6-1. The victory gave Laos the top spot in the 4-nation meet.
The second-placing has given the nationals a ticket to Group B with defending champion Vietnam, Singapore and Myanmar.
On the other hand, Laos will be bracketed in Group A with Thailand, host Indonesia and Malaysia. Some football observers believe this group is much stronger than Vietnam’s.
In their first match, the Filipino players were held to a scoreless draw by Cambodia by the difference of a solitary goal.
Thank you, mentors
Forward Ian Araneta, who had a hat-trick of headers in the 5-0 lacing of Timor Leste last Friday, noted that the team’s improved form was due to the system installed by former English coach Des Bulpin, who resigned last July.
“We owe a lot to coach Des and, of course, the management which has been very supportive to our needs,” he said.
Taking over the coaching helm is Bulpin’s compatriot, Simon McMenemy, who is on a 2-month trial.
Araneta also acknowledged national team manager Dan Palami, who has been bankrolling the team since it began training in December last year.
“There’s hardly been a management team that’s been this supportive in my years with the national team and we wouldn’t have qualified if not for the help of coach Des and Palami,” he said.
RP co-skippers Aly Borromeo and Chieffy Caligdong said they were optimistic of a better showing this time in the December 2 to 9 tournament.
Borromeo provided sterling backline defense with Rob Gier, and was also a consistent threat on set plays.
Meanwhile Caligdong, who bucked a groin injury in the match against the Cambodians, said they should be cautious for the event.
“We need to prepare better to stand a chance,” he said.
The RP side will be reinforced by Filipino-German midfielder Stephan Schrock, who plays in the Bundesliga Second Division, in the Hanoi meet.
However, the team might miss goalie mainstay Neil Etheridge because of his commitments to his club Fulham in the English Premier League.