SVEN Goran Eriksson makes his highly-anticipated debut as Philippine national football team manager as the Azkals take on Singapore in the opener of their AFF Suzuki Cup campaign on Tuesday at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City.
“It’s a new experience for me,” said Eriksson, easily the highest profile coach signed by a Philippine team in any sport, having coached the English Football Team which played in the 2002 and 2006 World Cup and the 2004 Euro championships.
The 70-year-old Swede also handled Ivory Coast and Mexico while also having experience handling big clubs in England, Italy and Portugal.
One place where he hasn’t coached though is in Southeast Asia but Eriksson insists that it won’t be an issue when they take on a confident Singapore squad.
“I’m excited, I’m looking forward to the Suzuki Cup. If you have been to Africa, Asia, Europe and America, football is more or less the same all over the world,” said Eriksson.
“A Philippine team is of course an Asian team but it’s also influenced in Europe with a lot of players getting education from there so I don’t think it will be a problem for me.”
Erikkson will have a tough first game ahead as the Philippines takes on a Singapore squad that’s coming off a confidence boosting 1-0 win over Indonesia in the Singapore National Stadium last Friday.
Erikkson is unfazed.
“I was very impressed by Singapore. It will be a tough game I’m not worried,” Erikkson said.
“I think we have to show them a lot of respect because they won against Indonesia,” he added.
Neil Etheridge and Daisuke Sato will be bolstering the Philippine XI, which is set to miss the services of Javier Patino due to an injury.
Singaproe head coach Fandi Ahmad knows that they’re the underdogs but he insists that they’re ready to fight for every inch against the Azkals.
“We’re happy to be the underdogs,” said Ahmad.
"It’s not easy, but against Philippines we may play differently. They have quality. They have the physique. Playing at a different venue sometimes also changes mood of the players. But I know right now mentally we are stronger than before very disciplined in terms of commitment to their roles which makes the team stronger,” said Ahmad.
“The players don’t want to lose anymore after all the flak that they’ve been getting over the years.”