South Korea v Philippines - Preview
Sven-Goran Eriksson has no issue with Neil Etheridge's decision to prioritise Cardiff City's bid for Premier League survival over an Asian Cup campaign with the Philippines.
Etheridge has been a star performer for Cardiff this term and elected to stay with the Bluebirds this month rather than join up with his national team.
That has left Eriksson, who took charge of the Philippines in October, without his first-choice goalkeeper, but the former England boss sympathises with Etheridge's dilemma.
"Of course it's a pity, but I understand, he wants to concentrate totally on his job with Cardiff," he told 'BBC News' ahead of Monday's Group C clash with tournament favourites South Korea.
"Cardiff is not on safe ground, so it's very important that he plays well, otherwise he might lose his place in the team, so I understand him.
"I think he will play for Philippines in the World Cup, hopefully, but in qualification for sure."
Eriksson was out of football for over a year following a failed spell at Chinese side Shenzhen, but insisted that he had no desire to remain away from the game, and jumped at the chance to manage the Philippines at their first Asian Cup appearance.
"I don't need to work if I don't want to do it, I need it for my head to work," the 70-year-old added.
"I don't know what it is, but doing nothing which is nothing to do with football, I don't like that kind of life.
"I grow nervous, restless, I don't know what to do, and that's bad. One day it will finish, but I will hate that day. Football has become a huge drug, it's addictive."
South Korea, currently ranked 53rd in the FIFA rankings, are heavy favourites to win Group C, which also includes China and Kyrgyzstan, but coach Paulo Bento has warned against complacency, adding that his side must take heed from Australia's 1-0 defeat to Jordan on Sunday.
"We are ready to play against the Philippines," Bento told a news conference. "You always need to respect your opponents.
"We can take a good lesson from [Australia's] result. I'm sure our players will stay focused."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
South Korea – Ki Sung-yueng
South Korea will be without star man Son Heung-min for their opening two Group C fixtures, as the Tottenham forward is remaining with his club until after their clash with Manchester United on January 13. That means Newcastle United's Ki Sung-yueng must step up and take the initiative from deep, providing the ammunition for South Korea's forward line.
Philippines – Phil Younghusband
Philippines are not blessed with the talent that South Korea possess, but in Phil Younghusband, have a potent goalscoring threat. Having come through the ranks at Chelsea, the 31-year-old has become the Philippines' record goalscorer with a tally of 52, and is sure to be the focal point of their attacks.
KEY OPTA FACTS
- This will be the first encounter at the Asian Cup between South Korea and the Philippines.
- This is South Korea's 14th Asian Cup appearance, the joint-most alongside Iran.
- South Korea won the first two Asian Cup tournaments (1956, 1960). Since then, they have reached the final four times but have always been defeated, including the last tournament in 2015 (1-2 v Australia, after extra-time).
- Philippines are one of three teams to make their Asian Cup debut this year, along with Kyrgyzstan and Yemen. Australia were the last team to reach the knockout stages of the competition on their first appearance (2007).