The Dream Begins – Azkals Arrive in UAE
Looking to write a new chapter in Philippine football history, the Azkals arrive in Dubai, United Arab Emirates today, 3 January 2019, with plenty of optimism ahead of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
As one of three teams that will make their debut in the competition, the Philippines will face a tough Group C. The Philippines were drawn with Korea Republic — which famously defeated 2014 FIFA World Cup winners Germany last June 2018 — China PR, and Kyrgyz Republic.
Although the Asian Cup proper begins on 5 January 2019, the Philippines will formally open their campaign when they face Korea Republic on 7 January in Dubai, followed by China PR on 11 January in Abu Dhabi, and Kyrgyz Republic on 16 January back in Dubai.
“It has been a long time coming, but now we are finally here in the United Arab Emirates eager to create another page in Philippine football history in the Asian Cup,” said Team Manager Dan Palami. “We call on everyone to rally behind the Azkals as we face the finest teams in Asia.”
Palami, who has been managing the team since 2010, understands that the team face a tall order in the group stage, and will have to leave no stone unturned in their quest for Asian glory.
“As in every major tournament we participate in, we consider ourselves as the underdogs,” stressed Palami. “But this team has the capability to dream the impossible in the Asian Cup.”
Led by head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, the Azkals regrouped last 28 December 2018 for a training camp in Doha, Qatar. The team, in their tune-up for the Asian Cup, faced AFF Suzuki Cup champions Vietnam in a 4-2 defeat.
“The tune-up game against Vietnam was the perfect gauge to see if the team is ready for the Asian Cup,” said Eriksson, who previously led England in the European Championships in 2004. “The players knows how big a tournament the Asian Cup is. They know what is at stake. We look forward to it.”
Captain Phil Younghusband, who is the Philippines’ most capped player with 102 appearances and top scorer with 52 goals, also underlined the importance of the Asian Cup for the players. 23 players were called up for the tournament carrying with them the hopes and dreams of a nation making their mark among Asia’s finest.
“The chance to play in the World Cup, let alone Asian Cup was just a dream for most of us players,” said Younghusband. “As we take the field against Korea Republic, we bring to the pitch a dream realized. We will not let this chance pass by us. We understand how much this means to the whole country.”