by Jonas Terrado
Sven-Goran Erikkson said the chance of turning the Philippine Azkals into a relevant team in the Asian region is what enticed him to accept the role of coaching the national side for the two major international tournaments beginning with this month’s AFF Suzuki Cup.
Erikkson, renowned for coaching England to two World Cup appearances, surprised the football world by accepting the offer to coach the Philippine side not only for the Suzuki Cup but also the Asian Cup which begins January in the United Arab Emirates.
After reportedly turning down offers from Cameroon and Iraq, the 70-year-old Swede described accepting the Azkals role as a challenge at this point of his football life.
“After I talked to the big boss (Azkals team manager Dan Palami), and I said why not do something different,” Erikkson told reporters in a press conference at the Kabisera restaurant in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.
“Coming here working for the two big tournaments – the Suzuki Cup and the Asian Cup – I told myself that ‘Sven, that’s what I want to do.’ And I’m happy to be here,” he added.
The seasoned mentor immediately buckled down to work upon arriving over the weekend, presiding over the Azkals training camp in Carmona, Cavite with help the team’s senior adviser Scott Cooper.
Cooper had worked with Erikkson during the latter’s managerial reign at Leicester City.
Most of the twenty-nine players led by brothers Phil and James Younghusband are in the middle of the training camp before the Azkals leave for Bacolod City later this week in preparation for the Suzuki Cup.
The Azkals launched their campaign on Nov. 13 against Singapore at the Panaad Stadium. They’ll also face Timor-Leste in Malaysia on Nov. 17, Thailand in Bacolod on Nov. 21 and Indonesia on Nov. 25 in Jakarta.
The focus will then be on the Philippines’ first appearance in the Asian Cup set January where the national squad is bracketed alongside South Korea, China, and Kyrgyzstan.