By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE Philippine men’s national football team treks back to the field today, taking on China People’s Republic in a Group C match at the 2019 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup.
Set for 9:30 p.m. (Manila time) at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, the Philippine Azkals will try to build on their spirited showing against Asian powerhouse Korea Republic last time around that saw them just narrowly beaten, 1-0, when many thought they would be routed.
It was a performance that the Philippines is hoping to take cue from as it battles China, winner in its opening game over Kyrgyzstan, 2-1, on Monday, where it hopes to chalk up a breakthrough Asian Cup victory.
“I think we showed the people here in the stadium, in front of the television that this country (Philippines) can play football, because I think we did a lot of good things,” Azkals coach Sven-Goran Eriksson was quoted as saying by the official AFC website following their game against Korea on Jan. 7.
“I think we played one of the best (teams) in this tournament tonight, and we created chances against them, so that gives us hope for the next two games in this group that we can do something even better,” Mr. Eriksson added.
Against China, Mr. Eriksson said he wants his team to have more control of the ball than in their opener.
“I want to see that we dominate and keep the ball better against China. We created some good chances (against Korea Republic), and I’m sure we can do that against China as well, but we must keep the ball a little more than today,” Mr. Eriksson said.
CHINA IS WAITING
Waiting for the Philippines is China, which had to dig deep to come back and beat Kyrgyzstan in their first game in group play.
Yu Dabao scored for the Chinese team with 12 minutes left in the contest to complete its fightback, 2-1, after seeing itself down by a goal just before halftime.
It is something that China coach Marcello Lippi said they hope to address as the tournament progresses.
“I’m not sure the real reason why we couldn’t perform in the first half, but it’s not the first time. I’ve been in China two years now and it’s not the first time in this situation,” Italian Mr. Lippi was quoted as saying by the AFC website.
“There were a few times when the team couldn’t play well in the first half and then, after I got angry and I [prodded] my players, I got the reaction I wanted from the first minute. Maybe it’s the characteristics of the players from China,” he added.
Also playing today are Asian Cup champion Australia against Palestine in a Group B match at 7 p.m. at the Rashid Stadium in Dubai and Korea Republic versus Kyrgyzstan in Group C at 12 midnight at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain.
The Azkals’ matches can be seen over FOX Sports which is available on SkyCable Channels 31 & 32 (SD) and 253 & 254 (HD) and on Cignal Channels 263 and 265 (HD).