By Jonas Terrado
Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson urged the Philippine Azkals to chase a spot in the knockout stage instead of just being content of playing for the first time in the Asian Cup which starts next week.
Eriksson believes the Azkals have what it takes to get past the group stage of the continental competition set in the United Arab Emirates despite being bracketed in Group C alongside crack teams South Korea, China and Kyrgyzstan.
“The Philippines have to go in with one target: to go through, to go further. That’s not easy but if you can do that, that’s good. Then everything depends on what’s happening,” Eriksson said in an article written by UAE-based paper The National.
“We have to have that target if we go to the tournament. We can’t just go and be happy that we are there. Yes, we’re happy but that’s not enough. We have to try to go through,” added the former England manager.
The top two teams in each of the six groups plus the four best fourth placers will gain slots in the round of 16.
The Azkals make their Asian Cup debut on Monday against South Korea in Dubai before heading to Abu Dhabi to face China on Jan. 11.
They will return to Dubai for their final group stage match against Kyrgyzstan on Jan. 16.
Eriksson and his team are due to arrive in the UAE today after spending the past week training in Doha, Qatar.
The Azkals fell 4-2 to newly-crowned AFF Suzuki Cup champion Vietnam in a New Year’s Eve friendly played under three 30-minute periods in Doha.