David sets out against Goliath
ABU DHABI—It will be another David versus Goliath clash when the Philippines tries to keep its Round of 16 hopes alive against giants China on Friday night in the AFC Asian Cup here.
The match at 5:30 p.m. (9:30 p.m., Philippine time) gives the Azkals another golden opportunity to create history against a team that handed them an 8-1 beating in a friendly match two years ago.
“I guarantee you that (8-1) result will not happen again,” captain Stephan Schrock declared shortly after the Azkals pushed giants South Korea to the limit, before falling 1-0 in their Group C opener on Monday.
“We have confidence, that’s why we qualified in the first place, and we believe always in ourselves to upset someone and be annoying to the other teams.”
The Azkals will have their hands full against a Chinese side ranked 40 places higher in the Fifa rankings at No. 76.
Against the heavily favored Koreans, the Azkals used a disciplined approach in defense, while relying on quick counters through Javier Patino to create opportunities.
The same approach could be used against China, which rallied past Kyrgyzstan, 2-1, in its opening match on Monday. The Chinese need another win to reach the knockout stage.
The loss to Korea put the Philippines in a difficult position as the Azkals need to pick up points from their last two matches to reach the Round of 16.
But while the Azkals have overachieved in recent years with qualification to this tournament as their biggest milestone yet, the Dragons have struggled to pick up impressive results in the leadup to the tournament.
That will make the task even more difficult for his side as the Chinese are under pressure to deliver a victory, according to coach Sven Goran Eriksson.
“I think it’s possible (to upset China), but I think it is going to be difficult,” said Eriksson.
“I think China is some kind of underdog like we are because they have not done great results for the national team. They have a lot of pressure on themselves with all the things they invest in football, they hope to be better than what they are and I think it’s an important game for them.”
Having coached for three different clubs in China for three years, Eriksson’s knowledge of the Chinese side will come in handy as the Azkals target an upset.
“China has some good players and they will play an open style,” said Eriksson.
“If you look on the pitch, I think on a good day, we can be equal with China or even beat them. They have some good players, but we have as well.”
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