Azkals hope Filipino expats offset tough group

Dubai: Philippines captain Phil Younghusband hopes the UAE’s Filipino community can help offset the strength of their group in January’s Asian Cup where they play South Korea, China and Kyrgyzstan in Pool C.

“We’ve got plans to visit the Filipino community to rally the troops and make sure we make each game feel like a home game,” he said on the sidelines of Friday’s draw at the Armani Hotel in the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Downtown.

“That’s important because we will be going into the games with a handicap due to the quality of teams we are up against, but hopefully our fans will make it more of a leveller,” he added of the Azkals’ (Street Dogs) first ever Asian Cup participation.

There are over 750,000 Filipino expatriates living in the UAE, where the Asian Cup will be played next year from January 5 to February 1.

“Hopefully 10 per cent of them turn up, we’ve been speaking to a lot of people here and they are happy the Philippines qualified because there are a lot of Filipinos here in the UAE and they could come to support us, so we hope they will come.

“We’ve got tough teams in our group but we had good results recently against Kyrgyzstan and lost badly against China in a friendly but at least we are playing two teams we’ve played against before and we understand their game and know what to expect.

“With South Korea it’s a bit different, but we are excited for the test and it’s up to us to make sure we’re making a name for ourselves.

“As soon as we qualified we said we weren’t coming here to make up the numbers, we are coming here to compete, and with the format we can progress from the group as one of the best third placed teams, so it gives us a great chance.

“We really want to be part of the tournament to show that Philippines has a football team.”