Eriksson targets Suzuki Cup final for Philippine team
MANILA • Former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson’s coaching deal with the Philippines national football team may be for only six months, but he plans to stick around longer than his predecessor Terry Butcher, who quit without taking charge of a single game.
The Azkals, who are using the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup to gear up for their first Asian Cup campaign in January next year, announced Eriksson’s appointment last week after the surprise departure of former England captain Butcher in August.
The 59-year-old was named coach in June but lasted less than 50 days, claiming that he was not “able to make this work”.
But, unlike Butcher, Eriksson has taken the helm with an open mind and intends to make a greater impression on Philippine football .
“I don’t know why he left in such a short time. I am going to stay much longer than he did, that’s for sure,” the 70-year-old said in his first press conference ahead of their Suzuki Cup Group B opener against Singapore in Bacolod next Tuesday. “I thought, ‘Why not do something a little bit different from what I’ve done before’?”
The Swede, who coached England to successive World Cup quarter-finals in 2002 and 2006, has also led Mexico and the Ivory Coast as well as several major European clubs including Italy’s Roma, Fiorentina and Lazio, and Portuguese giants Benfica.
Team manager Dan Palami is hopeful that Eriksson can continue to contribute after his six-month deal, saying: “We are looking at different areas where he can be part of the Philippine football scene even in a different capacity”, before adding that talks were ongoing.
Eriksson also wants the Philippines, who are ranked 116th in the Fifa rankings and climbed as high as 111th in May, to live up to their billing as one of the contenders for the Suzuki Cup.
Cardiff City’s first-choice goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, the first South-east Asian to play in the English Premier League, headlines the 29-man squad.
The group also includes Europe-based players Daisuke Sato from Romanian club Sepsi and John-Patrick Strauss, who features for Erzgebirge in the second tier of the German Bundesliga.
“The pressure is on the whole team to try to do better in the Suzuki Cup than the Philippines has done before. That means at least reaching the final,” added Eriksson, who has yet to name his final 23-man list.
The Philippines reached the semi-finals in 2010, 2012 and 2014 – their best showing at the Suzuki Cup.
As for the Asian Cup in January, Eriksson acknowledged it would be a tough challenge for the South-east Asian nation. The Philippines face South Korea, China and Kyrgyzstan in Group C.
“I could easily say win it (but) I don’t know if it’s realistic to think that for the first time. Let’s start with the Suzuki Cup, that’s first,” he said.
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