by Jonas Terrado
Game Today (Al-Maktoum Stadium, Dubai)
9:30 p.m. – South Korea vs Philippines
The Philippine Azkals look to at least make a good impression against crack South Korea as they make their much-awaited AFC Asian Cup debut tonight at the Al-Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson’s squad is the overwhelming underdogs in the 5:30 p.m. local time (9:30 p.m. Philippine time) match, though he is confident that the Azkals can put up a solid fight against the South Korean squad labeled as one of the tournament favorites.
South Korea will field a lineup composed mostly of players who suited up in its stunning 2-0 upset of Germany in last year’s World Cup in Russia, a result that eliminated the 2014 champions from the knockout stage.
Not on the South Korean lineup for tonight’s match is Heung-Min Son, who will miss the first two games of Group C due to his commitments with English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur.
The Azkals likewise won’t be having a Premier League player on their roster after Neil Etheridge was left off the squad list due to his current stint with Cardiff City.
Other key players are expected to be in Eriksson’s starting 11, namely brothers Phil and James Younghusband, Stephan Schrock and in-form Patrick Reichelt.
Likely to make the starting roster are midfielder Patrick Strauss and defenders Daisuke Sato and Alvaro Silva, eager to atone for missing the AFF Suzuki Cup semifinals due to their club duties overseas.
Michael Falkesgaard is likely to man the sticks for the Azkals and fill the void that will be left by Etheridge.
Meanwhile, the Azkals’ historic match will be aired live on cable channel FOX Sports.