Sven-Goran Eriksson’s ‘street dogs’ put Philippines on Asian Cup map

Philippines’ coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, left, meets South Korea’s coach Paulo Bento prior to the 2019 AFC Asian Cup game between South Korea and the Philippines at the Al-Maktoum stadium in Dubai. (AFP)
Updated 10 January 2019
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Sven-Goran Eriksson’s ‘street dogs’ put Philippines on Asian Cup map

  • Ranked a lowly 116th in the world, the Azkals (street dogs) bared their teeth against South Korea in Abu Dhabi this week, giving the favorites a real fright before eventually losing 1-0
  • Sven-Goran Eriksson: The Philippines is unfortunately not a football country — basketball is more popular. But if this generation of players can do well at the Asian Cup, they can change that

ABU DHABI: They may not be able to bend it quite like David Beckham, but Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Philippines have made an instant impact in their first appearance at the Asian Cup.
Ranked a lowly 116th in the world, the Azkals (street dogs) bared their teeth against South Korea in Abu Dhabi this week, giving the favorites a real fright before eventually losing 1-0 — a far cry from the hammering many had predicted.
“It’s a different challenge,” Eriksson told AFP in an interview Thursday.
“The Philippines is unfortunately not a football country — basketball is more popular. But if this generation of players can do well at the Asian Cup, they can change that.”
Eriksson took charge of the Philippines last November on a short-term contract until the end of the Asian Cup.
And the Swede is relishing the slower pace after a glittering coaching career that included spells at Lazio, Manchester City and, most famously, five years in the England hot seat from 2001 to 2006.
“Here it’s much more quiet,” smiled the 70-year-old.
“If you travel around the world with David Beckham it’s total chaos everywhere you go.
“I was amazed how he could focus on the football,” added Eriksson, who was hounded by media and had his private life splashed across the tabloids during his time as England boss.
“None of my players have even played at an Asian Cup, but they’re professional, they fight — like England or Lazio or whoever it is.”
A team mostly cherry-picked from overseas, the players who started against South Korea all had at least one non-Filipino parent, sparking renewed debate in the country over ethnicity after Filipino-Australian model Catriona Gray was crowned Miss Universe last month.
“I’m very proud of them,” insisted Eriksson, who steered the Philippines to the knockout stages of the southeast Asian championships in his first assignment.
“They stood up to a very good Korean team. I’m very curious to see if we can do it again tomorrow.”
Bustling forward Javier Patino could prove a thorn in China’s side on Friday in a match which sees Eriksson lock horns with his old foe Marcello Lippi.
But there will be more on the line than three points.
“I think I’ve met Lippi in Italy and China 20 times maybe,” said Eriksson, who spent four years in Chinese club football from 2013 to 2017.
“When I was at Sampdoria and Lazio, he had Inter (Milan), Juventus and Napoli — Italian Cup finals, so many games — and we are friends still.
“I will take my usual best with him,” added the Swede. “Whoever loses has to buy dinner and a very good red wine.”
Eriksson turned down jobs with Cameroon and Iraq to coach the Philippines but whatever the result against China and fellow Asian Cup first-timers Kyrgyzstan next week, he has no regrets.
“I like the people, I like the players,” he said. “We are more like a team today than we were a month ago.”
Asked about his future, Eriksson suggested whimsically he could end his career where it began as a player — at amateur side Torsby.
“I’ll always have my local team in Sweden — it’s a village team,” he said.
“But I don’t have any plans — and at my age in football, it’s better not to have plans.”


Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City ease past Huddersfield to cut Liverpool’s Premier League lead

Updated 20 January 2019
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Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City ease past Huddersfield to cut Liverpool’s Premier League lead

HUDDERSFIELD: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was far from satisfied despite a 3-0 win away to Huddersfield Town on Sunday that saw his side cut Liverpool’s lead at the top of the Premier League table to four points.
Liverpool’s compelling 4-3 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday heaped huge pressure back onto reigning champions City but they were rarely troubled by a Town side that look a certain bet for relegation this season.
City’s first goal, a deflected strike for Danilo in the 18th minute, brought up their 100th goal of the season in all competitions before Raheem Sterling scored a diving header from Leroy Sane’s cross in the 54th minute and Sane himself made it 3-0 with a calm finish just two minutes later.
For Guardiola, it should have been an afternoon of enjoyment as his side again proved their willingness to push Liverpool all the way this season.
The City manager, however, has forged a footballing reputation based on sublime performances as well as ruthless goalscoring and, on that basis, his team’s showing in West Yorkshire was not a success as the visitors never really clicked into gear on a day against a Huddersfield side who had parted company with manager David Wagner on Monday.
“During the season you have these kind of games,” Guardiola said. “It is important to win. We have scored many goals in all competitions.
“(But) the way we played, we didn’t deserve more than three goals. We will improve in the future.
“We have to demand more from ourselves in every game and do our best, but sometimes it’s difficult.
“Today we are happy we have won but after immediately we have to analyze. During the season you have games when maybe you are not in the top level and it is important to win these games.”
Although City’s fans were happier than their manager following this result, Guardiola could at least take some heart from the fact his side again refused to blink first in the race for the title.
For the second consecutive week, City kicked off knowing Liverpool had already won their weekend fixture and that, consequently, the onus was back on his players to secure three points as well.
Once again, Guardiola’s side managed to do that following up the 3-0 victory over Wolves with this showing and the City manager was more than happy to remind everybody that silverware is not handed out for another four months.
“One team has been better but we’re in January and there’s many more games to play,” he added.
“You don’t win or lose the Premier League in January. We have to focus on what we have to do. If Liverpool win, we have to win. And if Liverpool lose then we also have to win.”
This match was a baptism of fire for Huddersfield’s caretaker boss Mark Hudson and while the Terriers showed impressive fight to inspire some hope this season, this defeat still left them 10 points adrift of safety.
If, as expected, the Borussia Dortmund Under-23 coach Jan Siewert is appointed as Wagner’s permanent replacement, nobody would blame him if he spent his first day in the job preparing for a return to the second-tier Championship next season.
“It’s been a long week,” admitted Hudson.