The AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 journey begins tonight for the Philippine Men’s National Team who are eager to spring a surprise when they face Asian powerhouse Korea Republic in their opening Group C match at the Al-Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Participating in their first ever Asian Cup, the Azkals embraced the warm welcome from the Filipino community in UAE when they arrived in Dubai last Thursday but were conscious of the real work as they take on a packed group which also has China PR and Kyrgyz Republic.
Head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson highlighted the potential of the Philippines to produce a moment of brilliance against a team that has been a regular in the FIFA World Cup.
“The Philippines is a big team, from a big country, you will see. We have a lot of good football players and I’m sure of one thing, the starting XI and the bench, they will give Korea a fight, I’m quite sure of it,” said Eriksson. “They’re proud, they’re good. I’m proud every game in charge of them because they will give everything.”
Eriksson also knows that he will have at his disposal all 23 players for the duration of the tournament.
“(In the Suzuki Cup,) we started with one team and finished with a different team,” added the Swede. “For this Asian Cup, we have 23 players, and we will end with these 23 players.”
Midfielder Stephan Schrock, like the rest, is basking on the experience just being in the United Arab Emirates for the Asian Cup.
“We don’t have the easiest team to start the Asian Cup, but we worked hard during the last two years to reach this stage and we are grateful and happy to represent the Philippines in the biggest tournament in Asia,” said Schrock. “It will be a tough game for us, but there are surprises everywhere and we’re willing to give everyone a good game.”