National Team - Lions ● Nov 12, 2018

Opponent Spotlight: Philippines

Photo from PFF


SINGAPORE, 12 NOVEMBER 2018 – The Lions look to build on their impressive 1-0 victory against Indonesia last Friday as they take on the Philippines in their next ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup 2018 Group B match tomorrow evening. We take a look at the Azkals…


FIFA Ranking: 116
AFC (Asia), AFF (South East Asia)
Azkals (Street Dogs)
Head Coach:
Sven-Goran Eriksson


The Philippines is an archipelago that comprises around 7,000 islands. The population is about 100 million and there are a further 10 million Filipinos living overseas, making it one of the largest diasporas in the world.


Football is not the most popular sport as most locals are more passionate about basketball.


However, there has been more support for the Philippines National Football Team in recent years as the Azkals have been undergoing a renaissance in the past decade.


The Philippines are currently at their highest ever FIFA ranking of 116, second in the region only to Vietnam.


The domestic club competition is known as the Philippines Football League (PFL), which only began in April last year.


The PFL was started by the Philippines Football Federation to ensure that the country has a domestic league that complies with the standards set out by FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).


The initial planning stages of the league was supported by Singaporean sports marketing agency, Red Card Group and former Singapore international R. Sasikumar.


The 2018 season saw participation from six teams, with Ceres-Negros winning the title. They were also champions in the 2017 season. They were crowned the AFC ASEAN zonal champions in 2017 after beating Singaporean side Home United in the final.


Ceres’ domestic league win in 2018 meant that they qualified for the AFC Cup group stages again. They progressed to the ASEAN Zonal final where they faced Home in a replay of the 2017 final.


Home exacted their revenge with a 3-1 aggregate victory, with Lions left-back Shakir Hamzah getting on the scoresheet and midfielder Izzdin Shafiq captaining the Protectors.


Prior to 2010, the Philippines were seen as one of the region’s whipping boys. They had performed dismally in the six AFF Championships they participated in, having failed to even qualify for the 2008 campaign.


The Azkals only won one game and drew another in 24 AFF Championship group stage matches during this period, scoring ten goals and conceding a whopping 74.


The turning point came after a match in the 2010 campaign, in what is now known as the “Miracle of Hanoi”. Despite a plucky opening draw against Singapore, the Philippines came into their second match against group hosts and defending champions Vietnam as overwhelming underdogs.


A gritty display of counter-attacking football saw the Philippines come out on top, stunning the footballing world after winning 2-0 and more importantly, impressing their own fans who had given the football team little attention before.


The tide changed thereafter as the Philippines managed to go on a three tournament semi-final run. Having been knocked out in the 2016 edition at the group stage, they will be looking to return to form under the guidance of new Head Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.


The Philippines have not managed to beat Singapore in six attempts in the tournament and have only scored once against the Lions – a Chris Greatwich goal in a 1-1 draw in 2010.


The Philippines have also never won a game at home against any opposition in the AFF Championship in five attempts – drawing four and losing one.


Past meetings between Singapore and the Philippines at the AFF Championship:
1996 (Group stage): Singapore 3-0 Philippines (National Stadium, Singapore)
1998 (Qualifying stage): Singapore 1-0 Philippines (Old Jurong Stadium, Singapore)
2010 (Group stage): Singapore 1-1 Philippines (My Dinh National Stadium, Hanoi)
2012 (Semi-finals): Philippines 0-0 Singapore (Rizal Memorial Stadium, Manila)
Singapore 1-0 Philippines (Jalan Besar Stadium, Jalan Besar)
2016 (Group stage): Philippines 0-0 Singapore (Philippine Sports Stadium, Bocaue)


The Philippines come into this game in very good form. Having played seven games this year, they have only lost once – in October to Tajikistan in a friendly.


They made history in March this year when they qualified for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. They beat Tajikistan 2-1 at home in their final qualifier to finish top of their table.


The Philippines finished their qualification campaign unbeaten with three wins and three draws and will be looking forward to their Asian Cup debut in United Arab Emirates at the start of next year.


As part of their immediate preparations for this Suzuki Cup, the Philippines beat Mongolia 3-1 in a training match in Manila last Tuesday. The Lions also played Mongolia in a friendly match in October, winning 2-0.

Photo from PFF

The Philippines’ Head Coach is the high-profile Eriksson, who is best known for coaching England between 2001 and 2006 and also has experience coaching the Ivory Coast and Mexico.


Eriksson has a long and illustrious career in management, which began in 1977 with Swedish side Degerfors IF. He went on to coach the likes of Benfica, Porto and Sampdoria before making his name with Lazio, winning the club’s second ever Serie A league title in 2000.


He was then recruited by England in 2001, becoming their first ever foreign head coach. He led the Three Lions to two FIFA World Cup quarter-finals and one UEFA European Championship quarter-final.


Eriksson also oversaw the Ivory Coast’s 2010 FIFA World Cup campaign.


His recent appointments have been in the Chinese Super League, with a four-year spell coaching the likes of Guangzhuo R&F, Shanghai SIPG and Shenzhen FC.


The Swede took the Philippines role just two weeks before the start of the tournament, replacing coach Scott Cooper who was standing in after Terry Butcher had resigned in August without taking charge of a single game.


At 70-years, Eriksson is the oldest Head Coach in the AFF Suzuki Cup.


Photo from PFF

As of the time of writing, the Philippines are yet to announce their final 23-man squad for the Suzuki Cup. They did announce a 29-man squad for their training camp in Manila, from which striker Javier Patino pulled out of yesterday due to injury.


The biggest name and the one that is on everyone’s lips is Cardiff City goalkeeper Neil Etheridge. The 28-year old is the first player from Southeast Asia to feature in the English Premier League and has regularly been first choice for Cardiff this season.


Another player who is based in Europe is Daisuke Sato, who plays for Romanian Liga 1 side Sepsi OSK Sfantu-Gheorghe. The left-back has three goals in 36 caps and has played in Denmark as well.


Leading the side is team captain and all-time Philippines top scorer Phil Younghusband, the former Chelsea youth striker who has 51 goals in 99 international appearances. Along with former Bundesliga midfielder Stephan Schröck, who is back in the team after a two-year absence, the Azkals have plenty of firepower indeed.


Update: Philippines have finalised their squad:
Goalkeepers: Neil Etheridge, Michael Falkesgaard, Patrick Deyto
Defenders: Carli de Murga, Daisuke Sato, Amani Aguinaldo, Martin Steuble, Stephan Palla, Álvaro Silva
Midfielders: Manuel Ott, Luke Woodland, Iain Ramsay, Kevin Ingreso, Stephan Schröck, Paul Mulders, James Younghusband, Adam Tull, John-Patrick Strauss
Forwards: Mike Ott, Phil Younghusband (C), Curt Dizon, Jovin Bedic, Patrick Reichelt