Eriksson gives the Philippines an extra edge
Ex-England manager will lift the Azkals despite his appointment less than a month ago, says former Global Cebu coach Akbar Nawas
The Philippines have never won the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup, but former Global Cebu coach Akbar Nawas believes this could be their year.
The 42-year-old coach of Indian top-flight league leaders Chennai City believes the Azkals have man-for-man the best squad at the Suzuki Cup, and will be extra motivated to play for new coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Akbar is familiar with the majority of the players in Eriksson's squad, having led Global to the runners-up spot in the Philippines Football League and the RHB Singapore Cup final last year.
Ahead of the Lions' Group B clash with the Philippines in Bacolod tomorrow, the former Tampines Rovers coach told The New Paper: "For me, the Philippines are joint-favourites for the Suzuki Cup, alongside Thailand.
"They have an abundance of attacking talent and a well balanced squad from the goalkeepers to the strikers.
"With Thailand leaving out their overseas-based players (Kawin Thamsatchanan, Chanathip Songkrasin, Teerasil Dangda and Theerathon Bunmathan), on paper, the Philippines definitely have the best squad at the Suzuki Cup.
"I think the key players will be the Ott brothers (Manny and Mike) who are so good with their playmaking between the lines and (Stephan) Schrock, who can produce a bit of magic with his runs and long shots."
Besides the German-born trio, the Azkals' preliminary Suzuki Cup squad also features European-based players Neil Etheridge of Cardiff City, Daisuke Sato from Romanian top-flight side Sepsi OSK and John-Patrick Strauss from German second-tier outfit Erzgebirge Aue.
The Azkals also have a coach with an abundance of experience in European football in former Lazio, Benfica, Roma and Manchester City boss Eriksson.
Singapore will have nothing to lose... the Philippines will be under a little bit of pressure as home favourites.Akbar Nawas, former coach of Philippine club Global Cebu
Despite taking over only on Oct 27, Akbar believes the Philippines' late coaching reshuffle will bring more positives than negatives.
He said: "I don't see it as a drawback. The players are experienced, many of them have played in European leagues, and Eriksson is a seasoned coach.
"He's a tournament coach, he's been to the World Cup several times (with England and the Ivory Coast).
"From my experience with Philippine players, they will be very motivated to play for Eriksson.
"Many of them have played in Europe and they will love the chance to play for a big-name boss."
Eriksson's first game in charge of the Azkals will be against Singapore at the Panaad Stadium tomorrow.
Akbar believes the Philippines shouldn't take Fandi Ahmad's team lightly, after the Lions upset Indonesia 1-0 in their tournament opener at the National Stadium last Friday.
He said: "Confidence will be high in the Singapore team after the Indonesia game, they'll feel like they can beat anyone in the tournament.
"Also, Singapore will have nothing to lose, because they are not the favourites. The Philippines will be under a little bit of pressure as home favourites.
"This match could prove crucial. Thailand have put themselves in the driver's seat (with the 7-0 thrashing of Timor-Leste), so the winner of this match could stand a good chance of going through (to the semi-finals) with them."
TOMORROW'S OTHER GROUP B MATCH
- Indonesia v Timor-Leste
(8pm, Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, Jakarta)