SVEN Goran Eriksson may not have an experience handling a team in Southeast Asia, but the 70-year-old Swedish manager isn’t sweating over it.
Football, after all, is still football wherever you play it, whether it be for the English men’s squad in the World Cup or an on-the-rise Philippine Azkals.
Used to handling bigger countries and powerhouse clubs – ranging from a managerial position for England to an amazing run with Lazio in Italy – Eriksson now relishes the challenge of having to push the country over the hump and give a good account of themselves entering their maiden appearance in the Asian Cup.
“It’s not easy to answer that question. When I got the question from the big boss, I thought why not? Why not do something different than what I’ve done before?” said Eriksson.
“Coming here, working for the two big tournaments, the Suzuki Cup and Asian Cup, that’s something, I said to myself that I wanted to do,” he added.
It hasn’t been long since Eriksson arrived in the country and he’s certainly optimistic about the Azkals’ chances moving forward.
“I’m very very happy to be here. Nice people, the few training sessions that we have done, they’ve been very very good. The players are dedicated, they work very hard, and the future’s bright. I’m happy, I hope you’re happy as well.”
For everything else, Eriksson has senior consultant Scott Cooper to guide him.
Cooper has been with the Azkals for the past two camps and the previous friendlies, and he’ll certainly play a huge role in the Eriksson era.
The two worked together back in England when they were with Leicester City in 2011.
“I have Scott with me. He’s very important for the team and me. He knows much more football to the Philippines than I do and that’s very important. I have experience in football in Asia from Australia, from Korea, Japan, China of course, but I don’t have experience in football in this part in Asia,” Eriksson admitted.
“But football is more or less the same all over the world, if you can do it in Europe, you can do it in Asia as well. That’s the target.”
For all the excitement with Eriksson’s arrival, a lot of the results will be hinged on the guy who has been here all along.
“I need him,” Eriksson said of Cooper who spent six years as a manager in Thailand before making the jump to the Philippines. “He knows it all, he knows the players, the opponents, he knows everything. He’s very important and I’m sure we’ll work well together.”