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Phil Younghusband upbeat about Azkals' AFF hopes ahead of Thai test

Philippines' biggest star Phil Younghusband is aware his side could have to claim a historic victory over Thailand on Friday if they are to qualify for the semifinals of the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup.

The Azkals are second in Group A after drawing their opening two matches. But they now face their toughest test, coming up against the defending champions at the Philippine Sports Stadium.

Despite already being guaranteed top spot in the group, and a place in the last four, Thailand coach Kiatisuk Senamuang has still vowed to go all out for the win on Friday.

A draw could still be enough to see Philippines advance should there also be a stalemate in the other game between Singapore and Indonesia.

But, realistically, Thomas Dooley's charges will have to emerge triumphant if they are to guarantee their place in the last four against opponents they have never beaten in Suzuki Cup history.

Suzuki Cup 2016 starts on Saturday with our first game vs Singapore. First time for our country to be able to host the group stages. Hopefully you can all come out to watch our games at the Philippine Sports Stadium. Thank you to the Inquirer for all their support ⚽️�������� #azkals #myinquirer

A photo posted by Phil Younghusband (@philyounghusband10) on

Despite having clearly been a cut above the rest of the opposition, the Thais have not exactly found their rhythm. They also showed deficiencies at the back in last Saturday's 4-2 victory over Indonesia before only beating Singapore 1-0 on Tuesday, courtesy of an 89th-minute winner from Sarawut Masuk.

Younghusband believes there is plenty to take heart from as the Azkals look to rewrite the record books this Friday and, in the process, reach the Suzuki Cup semifinals for the fourth consecutive edition.

"Indonesia found some holes in [the Thailand defence] and managed to score two goals," the 29-year-old told ESPN FC.

"The important thing is that we keep it tight.

"We know we're going to have to play very, very well against a Thailand side that we've never beaten [in the Suzuki Cup].

"If we're going to qualify, we need to make history."

Despite having recently been transformed into a deep-lying midfielder by Dooley, Younghusband has had no issues adapting to his new position. He has been one of Philippines' best performers so far in the tournament.

Nonetheless, his less offensive role did not stop him from finding the back of the net on Tuesday, as he curled home a sublime free kick, with eight minutes remaining, to force a 2-2 draw against Indonesia.

Already his country's highest-ever scorer, the strike was his 43rd international goal, although his joy was dampened by the fact that the Azkals had failed in their bid to claim all three points.

"It's my first goal in this new position, and it's good to get back on the scoresheet, especially with a free kick," added the Loyola Meralco Sparks man.

"Still, it's disappointing that we couldn't get the win, but we live to fight another day, and it's important we stay optimistic, and know we still have a chance.

"All the players gave everything and put their heart and soul into it and I'm always proud of the boys."