MANILA – The Philippine men’s football team begins its tough 2019 AFC Asian Cup campaign when it battles powerhouse South Korea today at the Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The match is slated 5:30 p.m. (9:30 p.m. Manila time) where the heavily underdog Azkals hopes to start its campaign with a win to boost its chances of reaching the next round of competition.
“Certainly we are not contented to just be here in the Asian Cup. You try to expect, you try to hope that you make something out of this,” said Azkals team manager Dan Palami.
He added: “If you get out of the group stage, that for me is a realistic goal for this tournament and hopefully this sets the tone for future Asian Cup participation as well as in the upcoming World Cup qualifications.”
The Sven-Göran Eriksson-mentored Azkals needs to finish at top two in the group or be among the four best third place finishers in the six groups to move on to the next round of the competition.
“I am not here as a magician. My job is to set targets and see how we can collectively achieve these,” Eriksson said. “The challenge is huge and I am confident that we can stick together and go about achieving this.”
He added: “We hope we can go through to the second stage of such a big competition. We know it’s very difficult as we start against one of the toughest opponents South Korea on Monday.”
Called up for Azkals were goalkeepers Nathaniel Villanueva, Michael Falkesgaard and Kevin Ray Hansen, and defenders Alvaro Silva, Carli De Murga, Daisuke Sato, Stephan Palla, Luke Woodland, Adam Tull, Curt Dizon, and Paul Mulders.
Also part of the team were midfielders John-Patrick Strauss, Iain Ramsey, Manuel Ott, Kevin Ingreso, Stephan Schrock, Miguel Tanton, James Younghusband, and Mike Ott, and forwards Jovin Bedic, Phil Younghusband, Patrick Reichelt, and Javier Patino.
After the South Korean game, the AFC Asian Cup first timer Azkals will next battle Peoples Republic of China on Jan. 11 before capping off the group match against Kyrgyzstan on Jan. 16./PN