After three straight semifinal appearances, the first chance to host the group stage was expected to be a coming out party for the Azkals as they looked to establish themselves amongst the AFF’s elite tier of national teams.
But crowds at the cavernous Philippine Sports Stadium never approached capacity, and at times it did not feel like the team showed up either. The opening match against Singapore ended in a scoreless draw despite a one-man advantage lasting nearly 60 minutes, and only Phil Younghusband’s late goal salvaged a result against Indonesia.
Despite a strong showing against a Thailand lineup of mostly benchwarmers, the efforts of playmaker Stephan Schrock weren’t enough to find a goal and Sarawut Masuk’s late effort doomed Philippines to their group stage exit.
Football has made significant strides in the basketball-mad nation over the years, but there’s much work to be done if they hope to regular be counted amongst the likes of Thailand and Vietnam.