The Azkals Are Getting Better—And Barely Anybody Is Noticing
In early January this year, hundreds of South Korean football fans filled Dubai’s Al Maktoum Stadium. Clad in their national team’s colors, the jubilant fans expected nothing less than a resounding victory during their team’s first game at the AFC Asian Cup. After all, South Korea had arguably the best team in Asia (as evidenced by their win over Japan at the Asian Games some months back) and even without their superstar Son Heung-Min, the rest of the squad was there when they grinded out a surprise 2-0 victory over Germany at last year’s World Cup.
Finally though, there was the fact that their opponents for this match was none other than the Philippines (or the Azkals, as they are affectionately known at home). Ranked almost over a 100 places below South Korea on the FIFA World Rankings and even struggling to compete with other Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines were simply minnows at best. It’s little surprise that fans from both sides expected a complete blowout.
Yet it didn’t happen.