Philippines coach Sven Goran Eriksson believes his lack of familiarity with Southeast Asian football won’t be a cause for concern even as he expressed confidence of a strong start against Singapore in his first match in charge at Panaad Stadium.

A three-time semifinalist in the AFF Suzuki Cup, the Azkals are the last team in Group B to start their campaign, after Thailand and Singapore opened this year’s tournament with victories over Timor Leste and Indonesia, respectively. 

"Personally, its a new experience for me,” said the 70-year-old Eriksson, who coached England in the 2002 and 2006 Fifa World Cup and also handled Mexico and Ivory Coast. 

“I'm excited. I’m looking forward to the Suzuki Cup. If you have been to Africa, Asia, Europe and America, football is more or less the same all over the world. I mean that a Philippine team, of course, is an Asian team, but it’s also influenced in Europe with a lot of these players getting their education from there so I don’t think it will be a problem for me."

Even with his short preparation time, the Swede insists the Azkals are ready for battle starting with a Singapore team that is coming off a morale-boosting 1-0 home win against Indonesia last Friday. 

"I was impressed by Singapore,” Eriksson added. "It will be a tough game. I’m not worried, but I think we have to show them a lot of respect because they won against Indonesia. They did a very good job.”

On the back of the impressive win over Indonesia, Singapore coach Fandi Ahmad insists his team remain underdogs against the hosts. 

Captain Harris Harun’s 37th-minute strike at the National Stadium ensured the four-time winners got off to a perfect start and Ahmad believes his team’s renewed belief and confidence augurs well for what should be a crucial duel. 

"We’re happy to be the underdogs,” said Ahmad. “We have committed players and a disciplined team ready to fight for the country. Against Indonesia, we were very solid individually and as a team. Everyone was fantastic because everyone wanted to win every battle, every tackle every challenge. We fought very hard.”

Ahmad believes he now has a team that is ready to rise to the challenge, adding that the tough results the past few years have strengthened the Lion’ resolve. 

"I know right now mentally we are stronger than before very disciplined in terms of commitment to their roles which makes the team stronger," he said.