FOOTBALL chief Mariano Araneta Jr. yesterday cautioned local fans to temper their expectations when the Philippines battles Syria on Thursday in the second round of the Asian Cup and World Cup qualifiers at the Pana-ad football pitch in Bacolod, Negros Occidental.
“We must temper our expectations against Syria,” Araneta said, referring to a team currently ranked No. 87 in the FIFA world ratings, 27 spots higher than the Azkals at No. 126.
“But I believe that our players are well-prepared and this is not the first time they have played together,” Araneta added during a press conference where Chinese gaming firm K8 signed on as a sponsor of the men’s squad at the PFF office in Pasig City.
Araneta pointed out that majority of the Azkals saw action in the last Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates last January, led by Fil-German midfielder and team captain Stephan Schrock.
Syria has beaten the Philippines in all three previous clashes, including victories by scores of 12-0 and 5-1 in the 2001 World Cup qualifiers.
“Hopefully, they can blend together and pull off some sort of a miracle against Syria,” Araneta said, adding the main goal is for the Azkals to make it back to the 2023 Asian Cup in China.
K8 brand manager Vesper Tian said they believe in the capability of Pinoy footballers “which is why we are willing to support your national team.”
Among the football clubs that the Chinese gaming firm has previously sponsored are German club Schaller 04 and Manchester City.
While declining to disclose exact figures, PFF general secretary Atty. Edwin Gastanes said K8 sponsorship “was quite substantial.
“Their support will be until the end of the second round of the Asian Cup and World Cup qualifiers until June of next year.”