New Azkals coach sets World Cup target for Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – England great Terry Butcher said he was targeting taking the Philippines all the way to the World Cup after being named head coach in a shake-up.

Butcher, who will lead the Azkals in their first ever Asian Cup in January, said in Moscow that the World Cup "is our target for the Philippines."

"The Philippines is in the Asian Cup. Why can't we look further on? That what we have to do," Butcher said in a video interview released by the Philippine team.

Butcher, a veteran of 3 World Cups who has managed clubs in England, Scotland, Wales and Australia, was speaking as the current World Cup got underway in Russia.

Butcher praised his predecessor, former USA captain Thomas Dooley, who guided the Philippines to their first ever Asian Cup qualification as well as an all-time high of 115th in the FIFA world rankings. 

But he added: "It is okay to (be) reaching a level but it is horrible and awful to just rest on your laurels at that level."

Butcher compared it to climbing Mount Everest, saying: "You don't stop halfway up. You want to go right to the top."

Butcher was named late Thursday, June 14, as the new coach of the Azkals – slang for feral dogs – after Dooley's 4-year reign ended on March 18. (READ: Azkals name Terry Butcher as new coach)

Although the American won credit for his success, he also publicly squabbled with one of his players, midfielder Stephan Schrock, who was later dropped. (READ: Will we see Stephan Schrock back with the Azkals?)

Azkals team manager Dan Palami acknowledged that there was concern about the change in leadership after the achievements under Dooley.

"It's natural. People tend to fear change. That holds true every time we make changes with the national team," he told reporters.

"We don't need to fear change. We have to embrace it. We need to show everybody that the Philippine Azkals are here to compete and to show Asia that we belong," Palami added.

Butcher, 59, said he liked the "big challenge," of working with an emerging team, adding that it had an exciting group of players.

His first major test will be November's AFF Suzuki Cup, the Southeast Asian championship, before January's Asian Cup, where the Philippines are grouped with China, South Korea and Kyrgyzstan. –