THE Philippine Azkals debut in the AFC Asian Cup 2019 on Monday night against South Korea at the Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai.
The match is set at 5:30 p.m. (9:30 p.m. Manila time) with the Azkals being the overwhelming underdogs against the Koreans, runners-up to Australia in the 2015 edition of the Asian Cup.
Philippine Azkals head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, however, is keeping a positive attitude for Monday’s match, the first for the country in the Asian Cup.
“Of course we don’t have the easiest of opponents in this tournament,” said Eriksson in the prematch press conference. “We are meeting one of the favorites to win the Asian Cup but there are always, now and then, surprises in football. So why not even tomorrow?”
The Philippines arrived in Dubai on Thursday with the bulk of the team fresh from a brief training camp in Doha.
Eriksson said his concern is not much about Korea but how the Philippines will play on Monday night.
“I think we have studied them enough. We think we know what they will be trying to do tomorrow but at the same time if you concentrate everything on how Korea Republic play, we will lose our identity. It is very important that we try to play our way as well,” said the Swedish coach, who led England to the 2002 Fifa World Cup.
“On paper, they are the strongest team in our group and one of the strongest in the tournament. We know that. But that’s on paper. We will see how that is in reality,” said Ericsson.
Despite being a heavy favorite for the crown, Korea coach Paulo Bento is not taking the Philippines lightly.
“A big mistake would be that if we think the game is going to be easy. That is the worst mistake we can make,” Bento said.