Azkals draw strength from Filipinos in UAE
ABU DHABI—Limited to a cameo in the AFC Asian Cup opener against South Korea, Philippines skipper Phil Younghusband hopes to play a bigger role as the Azkals attempt to reach the next round in the continent’s biggest football tournament.
The country’s top international scorer made his Asian Cup debut when he came on as an 88th minute substitute to Patrick Strauss on Monday night at Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai.
Javier Patiño started as the lone striker for the Azkals against the Koreans, creating a couple of chances, which the Filipino-Spanish player also missed.
And with the Azkals holding their own against the Koreans for most of the match, Patiño could be leading the line once more against the Chinese side.
“I’m happy to have made an appearance in the Asian Cup, but I’m disappointed not to have played a bigger role,” said Younghusband. “There’s still two games to go so hopefully I get more game time.”
Azkals coach Sven-Goran Eriksson praised Younghusband’s response in his role as a substitute.
“He is not only a good human being, a good football player, but also a very good professional,” said Eriksson, who has handled the likes of high profile players like David Beckham when he coached England.
“He never showed bad things. He accepted his role. He came on, you can see he is very professional. What he has done for the Philippines is great. More than 100 games, 52 goals which is amazing it is always important to remember that.”
The Azkals were playing the Chinese on Friday night at Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium, with a win or a draw keeping them in the hunt for a place in the Round of 16. Kyrgyzstan will be the Azkals’ last Group C assignment on Wednesday.
With almost 700,000 Filipinos in the United Arab Emirates, the Azkals said they’re dedicating their performances to their countrymen here.
“All we can do is to come out and not to have regrets,” said Patrick Reichelt. “It’s amazing seeing that although it’s far from home, we do have so much support. Its incredible and it helps us a lot.”
Azkals manager Dan Palami said the team was taking inspiration from the country’s overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
“If the team is battling it out on the pitch, our OFWs here also have their own battles here every day missing their families, that’s why we’re dedicating our games to them,” said Palami.