By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter
THE Philippine men’s national football team’s campaign at the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup ended on Dec. 6 after the Azkals bowed to Vietnam in the second leg of their semifinals, 2-1, and dropped, 4-2, on aggregate.
It was a showing that one local football analyst is viewing as something the Azkals could have done better in but nonetheless to build on with a lot of key takeaways.
“I think Sven Goran-Eriksson’s reign achieved the bare minimum with the Suzuki Cup semifinals qualification,” said analyst Lorenzo del Carmen when asked by BusinessWorld for his thoughts in the aftermath of the Azkals’ 2-1 defeat at the My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi last Thursday.
The defeat was in follow-up to the Vietnamese’ 2-1 victory over the Philippine side on Dec. 2 at the Panaad Park and Football Stadium in Bacolod City.
“However, things could have been better and the home leg loss to Vietnam in Panaad sealed our fate,” added the analyst, who writes for local site Tiebreaker Times.
Mr. Del Carmen went on to say that it is too early to judge if the hiring of World Cup coach Eriksson was worth it, saying the true test is the AFC Asian Cup next year where the Philippines is competing for the first time.
“I think it’s too early to judge Eriksson’s reign alongside his work with the likes of Scott Cooper and Chris Greatwich. It’s how we’ll do in the Asian Cup that will determine how much we’ve come under his reign,” said the analyst.
The Azkals brought in Mr. Eriksson, who has had an illustrious coaching career with stops in Italy, Portugal, United Arab Emirates and China, to take the team to another level as they prepare for competitions, including the Suzuki Cup and Asian Cup.
Mr. Del Carmen further said that key for the Azkals moving forward is having the right players, citing Stephan Shrock in particular, and a complete roster which can put up a sustained fight.
“My main takeaway is that Stephan Schrock is still our main guy. He’s an amazing player. He runs both ends of the pitch and tries to create something for the team. He’ll be key for our Asian Cup campaign,” Mr. Lorenzo said.
“Players leaving the team because of club duty as we’ve seen with the likes of Neil Etheridge and Daisuke Sato will harm our Asian Cup stint if it occurs. Hopefully the players who’ll play in the Asian Cup won’t leave the team [midstream] as what was seen in the Suzuki Cup our play will be greatly affected by it, particularly our defense,” the analyst added.
The two-leg final of the Suzuki Cup between Malaysia and Vietnam begins on Dec. 11.