Philippines players at Asian Cup holding out hope despite pair of group losses
Philippines stars Manny Ott and Phil Younghusband insist that the Azkals can still reach the knockout stage of the 2019 Asian Cup despite sitting at the bottom of Group C after a 3-0 loss to China on Friday, a second successive defeat in the tournament being hosted in the United Arab Emirates.
Two wonder goals from We Lei and a late strike from Yu Dabao gave Marcello Lippi's men the victory in Abu Dhabi. Team Dragon now have six points from the first two games and move into the round of 16 with a match to spare. The Philippines are in last with zero points, following a 1-0 loss to South Korea four days earlier.
If Sven-Goran Eriksson's men defeat Kyrgyzstan, who are also pointless after losing 1-0 to Korea on Friday, in the final game next Wednesday then it is possible the team, in a first-ever appearance on the continental stage, could squeeze through to the next stage as one of the best four out of six third-place sides.
"We still have a chance," long-serving captain Phil Younghusband told ESPN FC. "If we get three points in the final game then we have every chance."
The former Chelsea trainee, who started on the bench but insisted he was fit despite rumours of injury, pointed to fatigue as a factor in the loss to China.
The Philippines worked hard to limit South Korea to a single goal victory four days earlier, but felt tired before the end, said their captain.
"You saw some tiredness from the Korean game.," added Younghusband. "We held them a bit longer. When it is still 0-0 you still have confidence but when they scored in the 30th minute then we have to figure out how to break this team down when they don't need a goal and they have got possession.
"China are a big, strong, physical team but we knew that. The way we play, once the first goal went in, it was always going to be difficult as we have to change our mindset and try and get an equaliser and doing that you leave gaps and good players and teams exploit that."
Midfielder Manny Ott is also hopeful that the Philippines can extend their stay in the UAE.
"The boys fought hard and there could have been much more in this game for us," Ott said. "China have good individual players and a game plan that they stuck to. China did a decent job but they were not as good as Korea. We could have gotten something today."
The focus is now on next Wednesday in Dubai.
"We always play to win and we are looking at Kyrgyzstan now." added Ott. "Last time we played them we won 2-1 and we will be looking at a repeat of that and then we will see where we are. We are still fighting."