Hanoi: Undaunted by Vietnam’s 2-1 win in the first leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup semifinal, Philippines defender Carli De Murga believes the Azkals’ team spirit will be key for the visitors as they try to replicate the “Miracle in Hanoi” eight years ago in a bigger stage in the competition.
Failing to capitalize on their home advantage last Sunday at Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City, the Azkals are left with an uphill climb to overturn the hosts’ advantage in front of an expected crowd of 40,000 at My Dinh Stadium.
De Murga knows that a finals appearance for the Azkals in the tournament will not only be historic but also trigger another wave of support for the team much like when the 2010 squad stunned Vietnam, 2-0, in the group stage.
“It (this match) means a lot because we’ve never been to the final and we really want to be there,” said the Ceres-Negros player.
"We know that, in the first game, we didn’t play our best and they were better that's why they won. But we’re full of confidence to make a great game and get a good result for us to play in the final for the very first time."
The Azkals’ defense looked sloppy and a stepped slower dealing with Vietnam’s strikers, particularly Nguyen Anh Duc and Phan Van Duc, who scored in each half to give the Golden Stars the advantage.
But De Murga said they’ve worked doubly hard to address those concerns heading into the second leg, where they are hard-pressed to keep a clean sheet.
"Sometimes, you don’t play your best game but we’re working on the field, we’re working with the coaches and my teammates,” said De Murga. "Everyone is focused. We know what we did wrong and we know how to do it tomorrow."
While Vietnam had the luxury of taking a chartered flight back to Hanoi, the Philippines took 17 hours to reach the Vietnamese capital. But De Murga was quick to shrug off the Azkals’ travel woes, saying everyone is eager to play the match.
"Now you can see everyone is eager to play this game,” said De Murga. “We want to win this game and play in the finals for the first time. One of the best scenarios is to do it here. We did it one time and why not the second time.”
Asked what's the Azkals’ advantage against Vietnam, De Murga was quick to reply: "The quality of our team spirit. We have a great team spirit and we’re going to show it tomorrow."