January 7, 2019 will forever mark an important milestone in Philippine football.
It was the day that the Philippine Men’s National Football Team introduced itself in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup for the first time in the country’s history.
Up against South Korea, a perennial contestant in the FIFA World Cup, the Southeast Asian nation showed that it was not afraid of its illustrious opponent, and relished the role of the underdog against the two-time continental champion.
While the Azkals lost 1-0, there was doubt that the team made Filipinos proud after their great first showing in the competition.
“If you look at the game, I think we started very well. We did not let them have any chance to score a goal and we defended very well. We had a good game plan. Unfortunately, they scored in the second half,” said Philippines midfielder Kevin Ingreso.
“It’s a bit disappointing but Korea’s a very strong nation so we can take it.”
Hwang Uijo’s 66th minute goal for South Korea had an air of inevitability about it, because of how 2015 Asian Cup finalists had constantly bombarded the Philippine goal. The Philippines had almost gone ahead through Javier Patiño, but his attempts were foiled by opposition goalie Kim Seunggyu.
“We went out to show them how good we are. We have good boys.
“There is a lot of potential in the Philippines. There is a lot of good players there,” echoed Manny Ott.
“We had nothing to lose. Obviously, we tried to show them that we are not here just for fun. We want to compete; we want to get something [by] trying to put pressure, showing them we can play[. We] scared them a little bit and overall it was a good performance,” he added.
Nevertheless, Sven-Goran Eriksson’s men need to get points against China and Kyrgyzstan to keep their hopes of qualification to the round of 16 alive. Another loss would all but seal a premature exit in the group stages of the tournament.
“We never went here to the Asian Cup to just collect jerseys.
“We know what we came for, and we still fight for the next two games against China and Kyrgyzstan. We try to get results,” commented Azkals forward Patrick Reichelt.
“That’s definitely our goal, to get results against these two teams. We know what we can do and we will see. All we can do is to work so hard and not have any regrets,” the Filipino-German added.
And the one thing that the Azkals should do to create another landmark moment in Philippine football? Put the ball at the back of the net, declared Ingreso.
“I think we just have to do the same. We have to stay strong defensive-wise, look for our chances and if we get our chances, we just have to take them, score them.”