Three-time AFF Championship semi-finalists Philippines have ensured they remain competitive in this year's tournament, despite having also qualified for the Asian Cup.
Having some experienced European players and a world class coach, the Philippines will provide a serious threat. Philippines are one of the teams that are often labelled as favourites in some of the previous AFF Championship editions, even though they have never reached the final match. The Azkals seemed very ready for this year's tournament. Having been drawn in Group B, the group of death, Philippines will automatically become a strong obstacle for Indonesia. Not to mention that defending champions Thailand, Singapore, and Timor Leste are also in the group. The Philippines have also qualified for the 2019 Asian Cup, making them one of the strongest teams in the 2018 AFF Championship. The progress of Filipino football is real, evidenced by the appearance of Ceres Negros FC in the AFC Cup. Several players from Ceres are part of the Philippines squad. But the presence of former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson will make the Azkals an even more dangerous side.
Philippines. Photo from Getty
Goalkeepers : Neil Etheridge (Cardiff City), Michael Falkesgaard (Bangkok United), Patrick Deyto (Davao Aguilas Bellmare).
Defenders : Stephan Palla (Buriram United), Daisuke Sato (Sepsi Sfantu Gheorghe), Amani Aguinaldo (Ceres Negros), Alvaro Silva (tanpa klub), Carlie De Murga (Ceres Negros), Martin Steuble (Ceres Negros), Marco Casambre (Davao Aguilas Bellmare).
Midfielders: Mike Ott (Ceres Negros), Luke Woodland (Suphanburi FC), Manny Ott (Ceres Negros), Kevin Ingreso (Ceres Negros), John-Patrick Strauss (FC Erzgebirge Aue), Stephan Schrock (Ceres Negros), James Younghusband (Davao Aguilas Bellmare), Paul Mulders (Ceres Negros), Iain Ramsay (Felda United), Dennis Villanueva (Davao Aguilas Bellmare), Adam Tull (Davao Aguilas Bellmare FC).
Forwards : Phil Younghusband (Davao Aguilas Bellmare), Curt Dizon (Ceres Negros), Patrick Reichelt (Ceres Negros), Javier Patino (Buriram United), Jarvey Gayoso (Ateneo De Manila University), Jovin Bedic (Kaya FC Iloilo), Misagh Bahadoran (Perak FA), OJ Porteria (Ceres Negros).
HEAD COACH PROFILE
Out of nowhere, the Philippines FA (PFF) changed their coaching structure and appointed famed Swedish trainer Sven-Göran Eriksson as their new coach. He is expected to bring a new dimension to the rise of football in the Philippines, after replacing Terry Butcher and his adviser Scott Cooper. Eriksson's reputation will definitely bring the spotlight onto the Azkals. He had brought England to the World Cup twice, while the Three Lions cilmbed higher in FIFA standings, from 17 to four, after the 2006 World Cup. In addition, Eriksson has also won trophies in European competitions, such as Italy, Portugal, Sweden, and trained some English clubs. The 70-year coach's presence has made the Philippines an attractive destination for mixed-heritage players all across Europe. Dan Palami, the national team manager, has also revealed that he received dozens of messages from players in Europe, saying that they were ready to play for the Philippines in next year's Asian Cup.
Sven-Göran Eriksson. Photo from Getty
Eriksson has not led the Philippines in a match. However, when Scott Cooper was still in charge, the Azkals often changed tactics. Usually, the Philippines used four defenders, but against Bahrain at Bin Jassim last September they used three. Strategies like these can be done well as both teams drew 1-1. Two wins over Laos and Bangladesh, a draw with Oman, and a defeat to Tajikistan were part of their pre-tournament preparations. Their preparation however was slightly hampered because players competing in Europe may not be able to join in the final training camp. But with good quality of the players and a world class coach, Philippines could repeat the success of the 2010 and 2014 editons when they advanced to the semi-finals.
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