Philippine Azkals flaunt quality under continental spotlight

first_img(From up L) Philippines’ defender Luke Woodland, Philippines’ defender Alvaro Silva, Philippines’ forward Patrick Reichelt, Philippines’ midfielder Kevin Ingreso, Philippines’ goalkeeper Michael Falkesgaard(From down L) Philippines’ defender Daisuke Sato, Philippines’ midfielder Stephan Schrock, Philippines’ forward Javier Patino, Philippines’ midfielder Manuel Ott, Philippines’ defender Stefan Palla pose for a photograph prior to the 2019 AFC Asian Cup football game between Korea Republic and Philippines at the al-Maktoum stadium in Dubai on January 07, 2019. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)DUBAI—It was a debut many years in the making and the Philippines surely left its mark, notwithstanding the result.On a cold Monday night at Al Maktoum Stadium, the Azkals combined their grit and resilience with their tactical genius and work rate for the rest of the continent to see as they went toe-to-toe against a giant in South Korea in their Group C opener.ADVERTISEMENT That the Koreans needed a 67th minute strike from Hwang Uijo to finally grab maximum points was a mere footnote to what was a memorable introduction for the Azkals, who showed a spring in their step as chants of Pilipinas reverberated inside the cavernous, newly-refurbished facility throughout the match.READ: Asian Cup: Azkals impress in loss to South KoreaFEATURED STORIESSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSUrgent reply from Philippine ‍football chiefSPORTSWin or don’t eat: the Philippines’ poverty-driven, world-beating pool stars“After a game like this, you will be having one teary eye and one which is okay with the result and the performance,” said midfielder Stephan Schrock, the captain for the night as coach Sven Goran Eriksson opted to start Javier Patino in favor of Phil Younghusband.“We are very proud. Korea had a lot of good players, they are composed and much better than the average Asian team. We surprised everyone with the performance tonight. We did very good. We have something to build on.” LOOK: Joyce Pring goes public with engagement to Juancho Triviño TS Kammuri to enter PAR possibly a day after SEA Games opening SEA Games hosting troubles anger Duterte SEA Games: Biñan football stadium stands out in preparedness, completion PBA to implement new rules on goaltending review, traveling, timeouts SEA Games: Biñan football stadium stands out in preparedness, completion The Azkals will take a two-hour bus ride to Abu Dhabi late Tuesday as they prepare for their duel with China on Friday. Getting a result against the Chinese is paramount for Eriksson’s side if it wants to advance to the last 16.Few expected the Azkals to stay competitive against a Korean team that regularly plays in the World Cup and only recently stunned former World Cup champion Germany, 2-0.But the Azkals were hardly fazed by the quality and experience of a Korean side, which had established players in Ki Seungyeung of Newcastle United and Lee Chungyoung, formerly of Crystal Palace.The tactical brilliance of the staff led by Eriksson and deputies Scott Cooper and Chris Greatwich allowed the Azkals to cope with the Korean assault for majority of the match.The Azkals defended deep, but they tracked runs off the ball and produced a solid defensive block that hardly allowed the Koreans to break through. On the counter, they proved dangerous with Schrock and Patrick Reichelt threatening on the right and Patino holding up the play to relieve the pressure.ADVERTISEMENT Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next It took some tweaks and the introduction of Lee early in the second half for Korea to finally break down the Azkals.Lee, who played four seasons in the Premier League, praised the Azkals for their gallant stand.“Everyone thought Korea will win this game, but we saw in the first half that it was not easy,” said the midfielder. “It was a tough game for us. I’m happy to get a result, but the Philippines is good. They have a good future in this tournament.”The three-man defense anchored by Alvaro Silva put bodies on the line just to deny the Koreans opportunities, while Michael Falkesgaard produced three big saves to keep the Azkals in the match up until the late stages of the match.Patino led the line ferociously and provided the Azkals an attacking outlet when they recover the ball from deep positions, but his finishing let him down particularly in the second half when his tamed effort failed to beat Kim Seunggyu on the Korean goal when the match was still goalless.“We kept it nil nil for a long time,” said Younghusband, who came on in the 88th minute.“The longer it got, the more confidence it gave us. Every player had to work in this team. If you lose concentration or you sleep, South Korea will take advantage.”Still, it was a debut to remember for a Philippine team that struggles to get support for the sport back home.“The feeling is incredible: The whole atmosphere,” said Reichelt. “You can feel that this was all a different stage. And we showed that we belong in this stage.”“I’m happy with the performance; but I’m also sad because we could have gotten something out of it,” said Azkals manager Dan Palami. “But if somebody told us before the game that it was going to be just 1-nil, I would take it anytime against a team like South Korea which is always in the World Cup. It gives us encouragement and motivation to do better in our next games.”center_img Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. View comments Hotel management clarifies SEAG footballers’ kikiam breakfast issue Private companies step in to help SEA Games hosting MOST READ Is Luis Manzano planning to propose to Jessy Mendiola? 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