Philippines head coach wants to shock Vietnam at World Cup qualifiers

By Trung Thu   June 3, 2024 | 02:05 am PT
Philippines head coach wants to shock Vietnam at World Cup qualifiers
Coach Tom Saintfiet of Philippines. Photo by AFP
Coach Tom Saintfiet said the Philippines want to beat Vietnam and Indonesia to get through the narrow gap into the third qualifying round of the 2026 World Cup.

Philippines are at the bottom of Group F in the second qualifying round with one point, two behind Vietnam and six behind Indonesia. To advance, Philippines must win and hope that Indonesia would lose both of their matches.

"We are determined to defeat Vietnam and Indonesia," coach Saintfiet said on ABS-CBN News. "If we have seven points, we have a chance to advance."

Philippines lost their most recent five games against Vietnam. The last time they beat Vietnam was in the 2012 AFF Cup group stage.

The Philippines also could only defeat Indonesia once, in the 2014 AFF Cup group stage. After that, the team lost one and drew three in four encounters with Indonesia.

Saintfiet believes that the squad this time will develop their full potential. He said that anything could happen in football, as long as the team keep hope in achieving their goals.

However, the Belgian coach also appreciates Vietnam and Indonesia for participating in the 2023 Asian Cup. He believes that Indonesia have many neutralized players, which helps boost their strength.

"Vietnam are made of domestic players but they have trained together for a long time," Saintfiet said. "They have a good squad and a new head coach."

Vietnam are coached by Kim Sang-sik. He replaced Philippe Troussier who was dismissed after two defeats to Indonesia in the second qualifying round of the 2026 World Cup in March.

The Philippines did the same a month earlier when they appointed Saintfiet to replace German coach Michael Weiss. The team lost 1-0 to Iraq in the last minute before losing 5-0 in the second leg.

Saintfiet, 51, has many years of experience as head coach of national teams, most recently Gambia from 2018 to 2024.

Previously, he coached Malta, Trinidad and Tobago, Bangladesh, Togo, Malawi, Yemen, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Namibia.

The Philippine Football Federation said it is working with the new coach to implement a long-term project to help Philippine football develop.

The Philippines called up 28 players this time, including 22 who are playing abroad, with many neutralized players.

Coach Saintfiet selected eight new faces as an effort to renew the national team. However, many players, despite being persuaded by Saintfiet, have not agreed to play.

The Belgian coach only kept five veteran players in this call-up, including goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, defender Amani Aguinaldo, midfielder Kevin Ingreso, strikers OJ Porteria and Patrick Reichelt.

Instead, he likes to use young and talented players such as defender Adrian Ugelvik, who’s playing in the Norwegian First Division for Levanger, midfielder Zico Bailey playing in the MLS for New Mexico United or striker Dylan Demuynck playing in the Belgian Pro League for Zulte Waregem.

The Philippines will play hosts Vietnam on Thursday, before facing Indonesia next Tuesday.

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