Eriksson: Azkals' semis stint feels like World Cup
MANILA, Philippines – Having called the shots for England in two World Cups, Philippine team coach Sven-Göran Eriksson shared that steering the Azkals to the 2018 ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup semifinals felt familiar.
"No two games are ever the same but the feeling certainly [the same], whether you go to the semifinals or quarterfinals of a big tournament such as the World Cup or the European Championships," shared Eriksson, who mentored England more than a decade ago in the FIFA World Cup.
“It’s a big tournament, there are a lot of people here and my feeling is the same as if at the World Cup."
Even if Eriksson just came on board early November, he knows that a historic Suzuki Cup finals berth is on the line, and what it would mean to Philippine football if down the road, the Azkals get to claim Southeast Asian glory.
"I will wake up and know that today is a big game and I’ll have all the same questions over whether or not I’ve done everything and given the players the necessary message so the feeling is absolutely the same [as the World Cup]," added Eriksson.
But the Azkals are up for a challenge against Group A winner Vietnam, which has scored 8 goals and conceded none in the group stage.
As the Nationals welcome the Vietnamese to Pana-ad Stadium for the home-and-away semis opener, they look to quickly stun the powerhouse team in order to stay in finals contention.
"It is up to us to score against Vietnam and be the first team to score against Vietnam, that’s a challenge and we want to be remembered for that," said captain Phil Younghusband.
"If we don’t score, there’s a chance that we might not go through [the finals] or win the game."
Younghusband also sustained a cut from the Indonesia game, but he will be healthy enough to suit up for the Azkals in the knockout stages.
However, the 23-man national team has been depleted to 18 as Filipino internationals Neil Etheridge, Daisuke Sato, John Patrick Strauss, and Stephan Palla were recalled by their clubs. Centerback Luke Woodland was also forced to sit out of the competition due to a foot injury he sustained during the opening game.
Younghusband has been actively calling for their 12th man to fill up Pana-ad Stadium after the Philippines recorded the lowest in gate attendance.
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I just saw this now. It saddens me to see out of the 10 teams in the Suzuki Cup 2018 competition, from each of the team’s two home games in the group, we have had the lowest attendance and rank last. Even Timor-Leste who did not play one game in their own country have been able to garner more support than us. I’m sure there are a number of reasons for this, something that maybe cannot be solved in a few days. In our semi finals in the past, we have sometimes struggled in the away ties because of the atmosphere and the hostile crowds that cheer on their home team and intimidate us. We need to do the same on our own turf. That’s why I ask for your support this Sunday vs Vietnam in our home leg of the semi final. If you are in Bacolod, can fly to Bacolod or can tell friends in Bacolod, let’s try and fill Pa-naad Stadium. Salamat mga kababayans! #football #soccer #southeastasia #philippines #thailand #vietnam #malaysia #indonesia #laos #myanmar #cambodia #timorleste #singapore #affsuzukicup #crowd #attendance #support #win
With news of sold-out semis tickets, however, the Azkals mainstay hopes that Filipinos have answered the call to cheer their hearts out for the Philippine men's football team. – Rappler.com