2016 Suzuki Cup Preview: Philippines
This is the time. For years, the Philippines were the basketball-loving easy-beats of the region, but no longer. Three consecutive semi-final finishes and improving results against Asian opposition have led to respect in Southeast Asia and the rest of the continent as a whole
It is not just their performances at the 2010, 2012 and 2014 AFF Suzuki Cups that turned heads, but also victories in 2018 World Cup qualification over North Korea and Bahrain. Only Thailand can compete when it comes to taking on continental opposition of late.
Recent friendly defeats against the same two teams have sowed seeds of doubt in the minds of fans, but this team has come too far under coach Tom Dooley and there is genuine hope of getting past the last four for the first time.
There is plenty of firepower in the team even without the injured winger Patrick Reichelt. There are the Younghusband and Ott brothers, with Stephan Schrock the crucial link in midfield.
There are concerns over a relatively young defence, after the retirement of two centre-back veterans and injury to defensive midfielder Simone Rota, but if the fans can turn out in numbers to give the Azkals genuine home advantage then 2016 could be a breakthrough year.