Philippines (white shirt) only won enough, including the weakest team B – Timor Leste team. Photo: AFF.
– from the semifinals, Philippines scores the fewest goals (5). Three of them are in the weakest team in Group B – Timor Leste. So, is there an opinion that meeting this opponent is good luck with Vietnam?
– Going through a long trip with four rounds to enter the semi-finals, everyone is strong and decent. Each team has a different style, potentially different hazards. When Vietnam avoided Thailand, everyone said we were lucky, but I don't think so. Thailand has always been considered the number one football stadium in Southeast Asia. But at the AFF Cup in 2018, they did not have the best stars like Chanathip Songkrasin or Teerasil Dangda. In addition, the Thai center-back pair managed quite slowly, even though the shape was good. In the match against Indonesia, these weaknesses were exploited, bringing them forward. If Thailand does not suddenly have two consecutive goals at the end of the first half, from a fixed situation, the game may spin more in the second half. Thailand can hold a good game but basically their players are still Southeast Asian, with high tactical skills, only eleven compared to the others.
Yes Philippines, certainly not an easy opponent to play. They have the ability to surprise every match. Seeing the round table, we will see Thailand and Indonesia cannot defeat the Philippines. Singapore even failed. From the team that came to the semi-finals, they are the most mysterious rivals in Vietnam.
– This mystery is not because the Philippines uses many naturalized players?
– 23 AFF Cup players from the Philippines are all experienced. As far as I know, only one person under 23 years. The rest are between the ages of 26 and 31, considered the peak period of a player's life. The independence of each player in the Philippines is very good. For example, their defender Alvaro Silva, who is 1m87, has won La Liga, and in a good fight. Or at the forefront, they have many breakthrough players, creating great opportunities like Daisuke Sato, Stephan Schrock. These are all newly arrived Filipino and Vietnamese players. Our defense can be valued in the ability to choose a position, cover. But if the opponent holds the ball and then goes into the penalty area, Vietnam will experience difficulty in judging, because every situation, the opponent has many choices. Forward, enter, stretch, or roll back to finish.
Filipino individuals can be considered very good, compared to the Southeast Asian level. However, because the time they worked with coach Sven-Goran Eriksson was quite fast, the Philippine coordination phase was not very clear. Their cuts are mostly based on individual efforts. That could also be the choice of coach Eriksson, who has experienced a lot of football in the world. He may claim that providing free games will be very effective for the Philippines at this time.
Coach Eriksson (left) signs a semi-annual contract with the Philippine Football Association at the end of October 2018. He only has about two weeks to get acquainted with the new team before entering the 2018 AFF Cup. Photos: AFF.
– Can you describe coach Eriksson's influence on the success of the Philippines at this time?
At the height of his career, Eriksson has led several Serie A clubs including AS Roma, Fiorentina, Sampdoria and Lazio. In the Philippines playing now, I see Italian pragmatism quite well. They are rocky but effective. The philosophy of Philippine football itself is also very weighty. In the group stage, they only won in Singapore and Timor Leste, achieving their goals in front of Thailand and maintaining Indonesia in the final. Watching the Philippines match yesterday, it felt like they were actively choosing Vietnam in the semifinals when there was almost no Indonesian attack. Of course, the possibility of winning the top spot from Thailand is very difficult, but that proves Eriksson is a good man. He knows games that need to shake, games that need to hide the team. Or maybe he saw something that could be exploited when he met Vietnam.
– What is the Philippines' most dangerous weapon in this year's AFF Cup?
– The Philippines mainly kicked 4-4-2, held the ball vertically, with two midfielders and two defenders who rose often coordinating overlapping wings. Their good workmanship is also good, so the cross is almost the only choice and also the best for the Philippines. In dealing with such an opponent, and having to play the first leg, Vietnam must pay special attention to its ability to control the ball and counterattack.
A 1-0 win against Singapore is considered a hinge to the Philippines semi-final of the 2018 AFF Cup. Photo: AFF.
– But they certainly also have weaknesses, and what can Vietnam exploit?
– The Philippines has a player base that can be considered new when less than half of the teams (10 people) appear in the 2016 AFF Cup. In their regular squad, only captain Phil Younghusband, Schrock and defender Martin Steuble were formed two years ago. Frankly, the players in Eriksson's hands are now able to play in Europe. They have a technical background, bodybuilding and extraordinary physical strength. Before famous Southeast Asian teams like Indonesia or Thailand, we all saw that the Philippines often won multiple matches. Apart from being a coach from Europe, experienced as Eriksson leading, the strength of the Philippines will be multiplied.
I have not seen any major weaknesses from the Philippines, except the possibility of coordination not really. If you play tricks and make use of the mixed phase, Vietnamese can make a story Another problem is the Philippines will choose what stone. If they maintain the right Italian style, we will lose a lot of work.