It was supposed to be a walk in the park for South Korea, but the Philippines men’s national football team hung in there for 90 minutes or so to nearly shock its high-profile opponents.
The Koreans, regional powerhouses and a 2015 finalist, took a 1-0 victory at the 2019 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup in Dubai on Monday.
And yet the Azkals, performing at this stage for the first time in Philippine football history, felt rightfully good about themselves.
“Even after we lost, the confidence went up. I spoke briefly with the players in the dressing room, and the mood is good (even though) we lost the game, and they know they did a good job,” Philippines head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said in an interview posted on the AFC website.
“I think we showed the people here in the stadium, in front of the television that this country (Philippines) can play football, because I think we did a lot of good things.”
The Azkals’ staunch defense gave the Koreans fits, as the 2015 runners-up and two-time champions were held without a goal well into the second half.
Hwang Ui-jo saved the Taeguk Warriors’ blushes with a 67th-minute goal, enough for coach Paulo Bento to gather 3 points.
Stephan Shröck said no one on his team complained about the result, given how it performed.
“They have a lot of good players, they are composed and technically, tactically much above average for Asian players,” the Azkals midfielder said in an interview with the AFC website.
“We are happy with the performance. Of course, we hoped for a draw or a win, but we couldn’t get it and we have to take it.”
Eriksson, whose side allowed Korea to control possession 80% of the match, said he would want to see the Azkals work in that department.
“I think we played one of the best (teams) in this tournament tonight, and we created chances against them, so that gives us hope for the next two games in this group that we can do something even better,” the 70-year-old Swedish tactician said.
“I want to see that we dominate and keep the ball better against China. We created some good chances (against Korea Republic), and I’m sure we can do that against China as well, but we must keep the ball a little more than today.”
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.