MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Azkals may have exited their 2019 AFC Asian Cup opening game with no points to show on the table after their loss to mighty South Korea, but they won the praise of many with an unexpected 1-0 scoreline.
Philippine head coach and former England World Cup manager Sven-Göran Eriksson is one of those people who was proud of the gallant underdogs.
"I think we played the best, one of the best teams tonight for sure in this tournament," said Eriksson. "We created chances against them. That gives us hope in the next two games in this group that we can do something even better."
The Azkals' performance is one of those that made the list of shocking results in the opening games of the quadriennial cup tournament, as the Taeguk Warriors entered as heavy favorites to win the title following their 2-0 romp of Germany in the 2018 World Cup.
"I think after this game, even if we lost it, the confidence went up," added Eriksson.
"I spoke briefly with the players in the dressing room and I think the mood is good. It’s good and they know they did a good job so the future hopefully is good."
The Nationals managed to hold South Korea to a scoreless first half with a defensive starting 11 which found Phil Younghusband on the bench.
The South Koreans only managed to break down the Azkals defense in the 67th minute with a close-range strike by Hwang Ui-jo.
But of course, this fires the Philippines' hope and determination to advance to the Round of 16 with some improvements against China on Friday, January 11.
"We created good chances and I’m sure that we’ll do it against China as well but if we keep the ball a little bit more than today, should be good."
For now, the Azkals will focus on recovering during their 4 days of rest before going against the top team of Group C. – Rappler.com
More commonly known as “Bee”, Beatrice is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Phillippine sports governance, national teams, football and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.