By Olmin Leyba
SINGAPORE – Azkals fanatics have given the Pinoy booters an extra reason to hurdle Singapore and book a first-ever berth to the AFF Suzuki Cup finals.
Hitting the pitch three days since boxing icon Manny Pacquiao's shocking knockout loss to rival Juan Manuel Marquez over in the US, the Azkals have received countless messages from fans urging them to somehow soothe Phl sports' bruised pride by stamping their class on Southeast Asia's best.
"Immediately after Manny's fight, I received dozens of calls and text messages and the funny thing was, they were saying, 'no pressure but please win this for Manny, for the country.' And we know how much a good news it would be, a lift for Phl sports if we get to the championship," said Azkals manager Dan Palami.
"And I'm telling myself, 'no pressure' but I think this is something that can actually be done due to the kind of talent we have and the preparation we've had. It's just a matter of really settling down early and making sure we get to control the game at an earlier stage," he added.
Co-captain Rob Gier admitted it would be an added pressure but something they should welcome.
"I think there's an extra responsibility on our shoulders now. But for me, I love that kind of pressure. That's why we play the game; otherwise, we'll just play down the park without pressure and enjoy football like that. It's one thing about being a pro and playing the game at this level," he said.
"Lesson learned yun. Pag sobrang kumpyansa minsan, one mistake, talo. (It's a lesson for us, too. Don't get overconfident. One mistake and you're done)," said Caligdong. "Kung bibigyan kami ng chance sa second leg, kukunin namin, hindi lang para sa sarili, para sa pride at honor ng bayan (If the opportunity arises in the second leg, we'll pounce on it, for country's pride and honor)."