Philippines players during a training session ahead of their opening match against South Korea. Image Credit: AFC

Dubai: South Korea will leave nothing to chance as they take on unpredictable debutant Philippines in their Group C match of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup at Al Nasr’s Maktoum Stadium at 5.30pm on Monday, January 7, 2018.

Billed as a fight between David and Goliath, South Korea will go in with just the three points on their mind in a battle between two top-level coaches.

The two teams will face each other for the first time in 39 years.

Record

In their last meeting in 1980, Korea Republic thrashed the Philippines 8-0 to maintain their perfect record of seven wins in as many games while scoring 35 goals and conceding none.

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What will stand out will be a clash of wits between an ambitious Portuguese head coach Paulo Bento for the Koreans and an experienced Swedish tactician in Sven-Goran Eriksson for the Azkals. China and Kyrgyz Republic are the two other teams in the group.

“No team can be taken for granted especially in a tournament of this stature simply because all of these teams have fought hard to earn their place,” Bento observed in his pre-match conference on Sunday.

“Any team or coach would be foolish to think that there is any team that is not strong enough here. We have a plan in mind and we will ensure that we stay focused throughout the 90 minutes to get the three points,” Korea’s Portuguese coach added.

Although Korea Republic have not won the continental title since 1960, the Taeguk Warriors are consistent performers at the AFC Asian Cup, having taken four runners-up and four third-place finishes.

Match schedules for Asian Cup group stages Image Credit: Gulf News

“It will be one step at a time for us. The first will be three points here and the next step will be to advance to the second round of the tournament,” Bento said.

First appearance

Philippines, meanwhile, are making their first appearance in this competition with the intent of pulling off a shock result.

“We are excited just like most teams before such a big tournament. We have never been on this stage before and this is our moment. We don’t have the easiest of opponents as well, but you can expect a surprise or two along the way. In my time, in football I have learnt a lot and I am confident this team can do well,” Eriksson said.

“We haven’t had the longest of preparations coming into this tournament. But the players have been focused and committed to get any job done.

“When you meet such a good team it is natural to first look at how they are playing. I think we have studied them enough to know what they are going to do. But, if we concentrate on what they will be doing, then we will lose our intensity. Our aim will be to go out there fearlessly and impose our style on the field,” he added.

“We know there are a lot of Filipinos working in the UAE. We want to see them at the stadium tomorrow as our team needs all the support they can get. My message to the spectators is ‘please come and watch history being made’,” Eriksson insisted.