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Gutsy Azkals proud despite loss to Koreans

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by Jonas Terrado

Game Friday (Abu Dhabi, UAE)
9:30 p.m. – China vs Philippines

The Philippine Azkals left the Al Maktoud Stadium in Dubai on Monday night with their heads held high after making a good impression in a 1-0 loss to South Korea at the start of their maiden appearance in the Asian Cup.

Entering the match expected to be beaten soundly by a South Korean side that made headlines last year by ousting Germany in the World Cup, the Azkals put on a strong defensive performance led by Alvaro Silva and Michael Falkesgaard while Javier Patino almost scored on his two attempts in both halves.

But chances of securing at least draw disappeared in the 67th minute when Hwang Ui-Jo struck the eventual winner for South Korea. Still, the Azkals were quick to embrace the moral victory.

South Korea's forward Hee-Chan Hwang (L) fights for the ball with Philippines' midfielder Kevin Ingreso during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup football game between Korea Republic and Philippines at the al-Maktoum  stadium in Dubai on January 07, 2019. (Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

South Korea’s forward Hee-Chan Hwang (L) fights for the ball with Philippines’ midfielder Kevin Ingreso during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup football game between Korea Republic and Philippines at the al-Maktoum stadium in Dubai on January 07, 2019. (Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

“I think we should be proud, I am proud with the team that went out there,” Azkals coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said in the post-match press conference.

“We stood out to them. They had the ball much more than we had but we created some chances and with a little bit of luck, we could have gotten a different result,” added the former England manager.

The performance surprised fans and pundits throughout the region, raising the Azkals’ expectations for the rest of the group stage.

Up next for the Azkals is a match against China on Friday at the Mohammad bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

“I think we showed here that this country can play good football,” Eriksson said.

“We didn’t expect to create many chances against Korea. We lost, now we need to look forward for the next game against China,” he added.

Silva was perhaps the best player for the Azkals, thwarting plenty of scoring opportunities by the Taeguk Warriors in the first half.

Falkesgaard, who filled in for Neil Etheridge’s absence in the tournament due to his Premier League duties with Cardiff City, made a number of tough saves while Patino had two clear chances to score but to no avail.

“We played one of the best teams in the tournament and we created chances against them and that gives us hope in our next two games to do better,” Eriksson said.

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