Veteran football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson has been named as the newest head coach of the Philippine men’s national football team ahead of its campaign in the upcoming ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup next month.
Azkals team manager Dan Palami made the announcement about the hiring during the AFF Suzuki Cup Trophy Tour Saturday afternoon at the World Trade Center in Pasay City.
“One of the all-time greats, Sven-Goran Eriksson, will be coaching the Azkals for the Suzuki Cup,” said Palami during the event that was also graced by Suzuki Philippines Vice President Shizo Hoshikura and Azkals players led by co-captain Stephan Schröck.
“He will be working with interim Scott Trooper.”
It was the second major hiring for the Azkals this year after acquiring the services of Terry Butcher, who suddenly resigned only 50 days into office last 13 June.
Eriksson already signed an initial six-month contract that will see him steer the squad in the whole duration of Suzuki Cup as well as the 2019 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup in Dubai, where the Azkals qualified for the first time in history earlier this year.
At 70 years old, Eriksson has a deep football experience and tradition to bring to the Azkals, who are looking to atone for an early exit in the last edition of Suzuki Cup in 2016.
Winner of 18 total trophies as football manager across Europe, the veteran Swedish mentor is best remembered for his stint with the England national team, towing the squad to FIFA World Cup appearances in 2002 and 2006.
Palami said it’s been a long but fruitful journey for the Azkals after finally luring the football great Eriksson to come over in the Philippines.
“I’m glad that he agreed after several changes of emails. We also met in Qatar so we’re looking forward to him coming over to the team,” he said.
“I’ve always been a dreamer, so why not? Fortunately, I was able to sell to Sven the dream of the Philippine football. He’s been there, he’s done it and believes in the legacy that he can leave behind in the Philippines and in Asia.”
Eriksson is expected to arrive in the country on 1 or 2 November before the Azkals start their final camp on 3 November in Manila and Bacolod.
With Eriksson’s hiring and the expected home fans of Filipino fans at the Panaad Park and Stadium for their home games, co-captain Shröck is confident with their Suzuki Cup chances.
“We will be prepared mentally and physically. We do not fear anyone. But we respect everyone,” he said. “You can expect a very well-prepared Azkals for the Suzuki Cup.”
The Philippines is bracketed in tough Group B together with Timor Leste, Singapore, Indonesia and five-time Suzuki Cup champion Thailand.
Over at Group A are Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Malaysia.
After last making it to the semis in 2014, the hopeful Azkals will open their Suzuki Cup group phase campaign with a home match at the Panaad Park and Stadium in Bacolod on 13 November against Singapore.
Then, they will visit Timor Leste on 17 November and host Thailand on 21 November still in Bacolod before wrapping the preliminary round against Indonesia in their turf on 25 November.
Meanwhile, Suzuki Cup continues its Trophy Tour on 28 October in Bangkok, 2 November in Hanoi and 4 November in Jakarta before the regional tournament kicks off on 8 November until 15 December.