After making it to the semi-finals of the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup late last year, the Philippine national football team continues to raise the flag high as it debuts in the AFC Asian Cup tonight (9:30 p.m., Manila time), at the Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The Azkals, currently in the 116th place in the world rankings, will go against Asian powerhouse South Korea (53rd). The Korea Republic, which has been constantly appearing in the FIFA World Cup, finished undefeated in the qualifying round, and was the runner-up in the tournament’s 2015 edition behind champion Australia (Group A). The match between the Filipino and Korean footballers is 39 years in the making.
Also in the Group C with the Philippines and South Korea are China (76th) and Kyrgyzstan (91st), whom the Azkals will face on January 11 and 16, respectively.
“Our journey to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup is a dream realized,” says Philippine Football Federation (PFF) president Mariano Araneta Jr., as quoted in PFF’s official website. “The team’s participation in this tournament is testament to the massive strides the Philippine football community has done in recent years.”
The AFC Asian Cup is deemed as, by far, the biggest tournament the Azkals will participate in. “To represent the Philippines in the biggest tournament in Asia is the greatest honor the players can give back for flag and country,” Araneta adds. “Let us all get behind the team in the Asian Cup and together strive to dream the impossible.”
The Philippines’ 23-man squad is composed of team captain Phil Younghusband, Stephan Schrock, Michael Falkesgaard, and Manny Ott, among others.
“[…]We worked hard during the last two years to reach this stage and we are grateful and happy to represent the Philippines in the biggest tournament in Asia[…] It will be a tough game for us, but there are surprises everywhere and we’re willing to give everyone a good game,” says Schrock.
Top goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, however, is not part of the line up due to a prior commitment with Premier League in Europe.
The 2019 Asian Cup is a continental competition among 24 men’s football teams, held from January 5 to February 1, 2019, bannering the theme: Bringing Asia Together.
Break a leg, team Philippines!
Visit this link for the schedule and telecast details of the Azkals’ matches.
Featured image from Philippine Football Federation.
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