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Sato wants hunger from the Azkals

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Daisuke Sato sat on the bleachers after the training session of the Philippine National Men’s Football Team (Azkals). He removed his gear as he sat and pondered on the latest results of the Azkals in the 2018 FIFA World Cup/2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers. “First game we did really well against North Korea, strong team, 0-0.” He then lamented the away result against Bahrain and pointed to fatigue and profligacy in front of goal as the reasons for the Azkals loss.

The first step of redemption for the Azkals is the home game against Yemen on November 12, 2015 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. Sato explained that he and his teammates felt the home game against Yemen was a must-win to salvage some hope. “Yeah, of course we are really hungry for the next game. We have to win. We must get three points. If not we cannot go to the next round, next Asian Cup so we are really hungry. For the players, we have to be really hungry. We have to be really hungry. Yeah, we are.”

It’s been over a year since Sato first started to play for the Azkals, about which he only had good things to say. “It’s really nice. It’s fantastic experience to play for the national team, representing my mother’s country. Every time I play for the national team, I’m always proud. I play with my heart. It’s always a fantastic feeling.”

A home game versus North Korea and a trip to Bahrain are next for the Azkals in their qualifying campaign. However, Sato wanted his team to focus on Yemen before the next two games but accepted the sizable task ahead. “We need to focus on our next game first and then we will talk about the other games. Yeah but they are really tough games but we need to win if we want to play next round, next stage, whatever. We have to win even if they’re really strong. I don’t care. We have to win that game.”

The loss to Bahrain may have lowered the morale of the Azkals, but Sato begged to disagree. “Confidence is always really high. We train really well. We talk really well with the coach. We lost against Bahrain but that was not so bad. We had our chances. We still have big confidence because we drew against North Korea. Our confidence is still high.”

With the UFL on hiatus, some of the locally-based members of the Azkals had to keep themselves fit by other means. Sato accepted this, sharing that he and some of his teammates worked on their form and fitness regardless of the break. “It’s how to keep our fitness. I go to the gym every day. I hope other players also do that. Actually we are not so bad. We are fit also. When I see training, I see that every player is fit. So it’s gonna be fine.”

Since Sato started to represent the Philippines, he felt that a certain pride and honor had been bestowed upon him. He vowed to keep his heart on his sleeve and give it his all every game. “Everything’s the best. To represent all the Filipinos. That’s the best part. I play with my heart. Carry all Filipinos with my back so that’s the best part.”

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Lorenzo's a frustrated author who knows a thing or two about Football and Basketball. Went all green from Ortigas to Taft. Supports Liverpool FC, FC Bayern Munich and the Alaska Aces

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