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Dec 30 18, 10:42 am

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‘We can’t just go and be happy that we are there’ – Azkals coach on AFC

by | Global, News, sports

Dec. 30, 18 | 10:42 am

As the Azkals make their debut appearance at AFC Asian Cup, veteran coach Sven-Goran Eriksson indicated the team may be headed for tough battles saying, “We have to try to go through.”

The Philippines will be facing Korea, China and Kyrgyz Republic in Group C as AFC Asian Cup 2019 unfolds Jan. 5 to Feb 1 in six stadiums across the UAE and the former England manager, who was appointed in October, believes advancing to the knockout rounds is a challenge that is not beyond his players, said a report posted in AFC website.

The games will be held in Al-Maktoum Stadium and Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium also in Dubai; Zayed Sports City Stadium and Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi; and Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium and Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain.

“I think the Philippines have to go in with one target: to go through, to go further,” the veteran Swede told the-afc.com. “That’s not easy but if you can do that, that’s good. Then everything depends on what’s happening.

“If we get the players we want, it’s realistic. We have to have that target if we go to the tournament. We can’t just go and be happy that we are there. Yes, we’re happy but that’s not enough. We have to try to go through.”

Eriksson is hoping to bolster his squad in the weeks between the ongoing AFF Cup – where the Philippines are currently in the semi-finals – and the start of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 with a number of overseas-born players who are eligible to play for the Philippines, said the report.

The Philippines is appearing in the last four of the Southeast Asian tournament for the fourth time since 2010 and the 70-year-old former Lazio coach has seen enough during his time with the squad to be confident he has the players to make an impact in January.

“The Asian Cup is a huge tournament, like the Euros for us Europeans,” he said. “It’s the biggest there is if you take away the World Cup. For the Philippines, it’s the first time ever, so that’s great and of course we are looking forward to it, but first we will try to finish this tournament.

“When we started this competition, the squad was very good but there are less players for every game and we have a couple of players who have some injuries. If we have all of the players available – and maybe a few others, depending on the embassy and things like that – the team is not bad, it’s good.

“If we have all the players available, we are as good as Thailand and Vietnam for sure. Then, if we are as good as Korea Republic and Japan that’s doubtful. Australia too.”
The Azkals kick off their campaign against a Korean side that will be among the favourites for the title before meeting China PR in a game that will pit Eriksson against several players he knows well from his days working in the Chinese Super League.

Eriksson spent one-and-a-half seasons as head coach of Guangzhou R&F before shifting to Shanghai SIPG in late 2014, guiding the club to the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League in 2016 late in his second, and final, season in Shanghai.

“I don’t know Kyrgyz Republic very well,” said Eriksson of the nation his team will face in their final group game. “After this cup finishes I will look at that, but I know Korea and they’re very good, always qualifying for the World Cup.

“China I know them very well, they’ve been very much up and down. I think people in China are expecting more from them than they have done, so I don’t know. I haven’t spoken to (Marcello) Lippi for a while.

“But it’s a tough group, of course it is. I think the second game against China will be like a final.”

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