Philippines captain Rob Gier hailed the commitment his team-mates showed in Saturday’s 0-0 draw against Thailand in the first leg of their 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final.
Despite coming up against a side many regard as the tournament favourites at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, the Azkals showed no signs of being overawed and more than matched their opponents throughout the 90 minutes.
It could even have been a better result for Philippines considering the War Elephants played out the final 22 minutes with ten men after Adisak Kraisorn was sent off for violent behaviour, but they were just unable to find a way past Kawin Thamsatchanan and his resolute backline.
Nonetheless, Gier believes there were many positives to take from their display especially considering they came into the tie as huge underdogs in the eyes of many.
“We were excellent today [Saturday],” he told SPIN.ph. “The commitment was exactly what I expected it would be.
“A lot of people outside the Filipino press didn’t think that we stood a chance against this team. They felt [Thailand] were going to walk over us.
“But I think we’ve proved a lot of people wrong today.”
The veteran centre-back, who was also part of the squad that reached the Suzuki Cup semis back in 2010 and 2012, admitted playing in front of their own fans – which is only the second time Philippines have hosted a match in the competition – was a huge factor.
“This is our home,” Gier added. “The energy was excellent, the way we closed people down [and] we hustled.
“So they [Thailand] have got to bring their A-game if they want to beat us.”
Philippines coach Thomas Dooley admitted he would have been pleased with a goalless draw ahead of the match, but felt like they had missed a chance to claim a significant advantage given how the game ultimately panned out.
“Before the game, I would have taken a 0-0 draw,” the American tactician said. “But now after the game, I feel it is a shame that we did not score and win.
“Still, I am happy with how the team played and over the past few days, I could sense a growing confidence.”
The second leg between the two sides will take place next Wednesday at the Rajamangala Stadium, which is expected to be sold out for the match.