By Michael Angelo S. Murillo<brSenior Reporter
GO-GETTING and fearless in its AFC Asian Cup debut, the Philippine men’s national football team is well advised to following such disposition on the field, and building on it, for the rest of the tournament if it is to make things happen. This is according to one local football analyst.
Giving their opponents more than what they perhaps were expecting, the Philippine Azkals made Korea Republic sweat before bowing to a 1-0 defeat in their Group C opener in the prestigious continental football spectacle.
It was a debut performance by the Philippines which had many left impressed considering that the Azkals were deemed to be beaten big time by the Asian powerhouse Taeguk Warriors.
But the Azkals stood their ground against the two-time Asian Cup champion and 2015 runner-up Korea Republic, holding the latter in check until Hwang Ui-Jo broke through for his team in the 67th minute which turned out to be the winning goal.
“It was an impressive debut for the Azkals. The players showed no fear and defended well throughout the game despite South Korea’s goal. We even provided them some scares thanks to Javier Patino’s attempts,” said analyst Lorenzo del Carmen when asked by BusinessWorld for his thoughts on the Azkals’ performance against the Koreans.
Mr. Del Carmen, who covers and writes for local site Tiebreaker Times, went on to say that the Azkals should pick up from where they left on in the Korea game in their next matches against China and Kyrgyzstan.
“I think the coaching staff will adjust to each opposition accordingly but, regardless, the team needs to consistently defend well throughout its campaign just like it did last night [against Korea],” said the analyst, who is currently in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to cover and watch the Azkals make history in the Asian Cup.
Adding, “I think we can pull off results against China and Kyrgyzstan but we just have to make sure we play with the same intensity against them just as we did in our first game.”
The Philippines next plays on Friday, Jan. 11, against China, and on Jan. 16 versus Kyrgyztan.
Meanwhile, as of this writing, all of the teams competing in this year’s edition of the quadrennial AFC Asian Cup have played save for Qatar and Lebanon in Group E and those in Group F which were to make their debut later yesterday.
In Group A, India is on top spot with one win and three points, followed by Bahrain and host UAE, with a point each, and Thailand.
Jordan tops Group B, followed by Syria, Palestine and defending champion Australia.
In Group C, China and Korea are tied for first place followed by Kyrgyzstan and the Philippines.
Iran and Iraq share Group D leadership ahead of Vietnam and Yemen.
Saudi Arabia has three points in Group E with a 4-0 rout of North Korea.
In the Asian Cup, tournament format calls for the top two teams in each of the six groupings at the end of group play advancing to the next round, to be joined by the four best third-place teams.