Nam Dinh: Philippines coach Simon McMenemy beamed with pride as his team sealed a place in the semifinals of the AFF Suzuki Cup for the first time in the country's history.
A 0-0 draw with Myanmar was enough not only to ensure the Philippines progress, but for the previously unheralded side to emerge from the group stage of the tournament with an unbeaten record.
A draw with Singapore in their opening game gave them a solid start before the shock win over Group B hosts Vietnam pushed the Filipinos to the top of the standings after the first two rounds of matches.
And while the draw with Myanmar was not enough for the Philippines to hold on to first place in the group following Vietnam's win over Singapore, the English coach was delighted with his side's against-the-odds showing.
"It's amazing, just amazing because of all of the hard work we have put in," he said.
"The (Filipino fans) expected us to win but I'm just so pleased that the boys are going back to Manila as semi-finalists."
The draw represented Myanmar's first point of the tournament after defeats against both Singapore and Vietnam but McMenemy was quick to stress how difficult a task his team faced.
"Motivation (for this game) was never a problem but if you come to an empty stadium and play against a team everyone tells you that you can beat, then motivation is tough," he said
"They're much better than what their results tell you. They are very organised going forward. They kind of pinned us back. If Myanmar had the same fortune as us, they could have gott a result. They're difficult to defend.
"They did well in first half, they made it difficult for us. We defended with everything we have."
McMenemy refused to single out any player in particular as his side kept their unlikely challenge for the title alive.
"No player stood out, we put up a team performance from goalkeeper to forward," he said. "Their spirit was just excellent."
Myanmar coach Tin Myint Aung was at least able to garner some positives from his team's performance at the end of a tournament that yielded little for his unfortunate side.
"We already knew about their technique and we tried our best," he said. "We tried to win for our country. We played very well and we had some very good chances."
Thursday, 9 December 2010