THE Philippine Azkals will be facing a familiar mentor—and tormentor—swhen they play Indonesia in the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup group tournament in November.
Back at the helm of the Merah Puti (Red and White) is Austrian Alfred Riedl, who was also the coach of the Indonesians when they fought against the Filipinos for the first time in the Suzuki Cup semifinals in 2010.
With Indonesia enjoying complete hometown edge as the Philippines did not have a proper venue for the semis at that time, Riedl steered the hosts to a sweep of their two-match series at the jampacked Bung Karno National Stadium in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.
The Indonesians advanced to finals with a 2-0 aggregate score, eventually losing the Suzuki Cup championship to Malaysia, paving the way to Riedl getting sacked as head coach in 2011.
Born in the romantic Austrian city of Vienna, Riedl, 66, is a well-travelled coach, having had national coaching stints with Austria, Liechenstein, Palestine, Vietnam and Laos besides Indonesia. He also handled commercial clubs in Morocco, Kuwait, Egypt and Vietnam.
Riedl will be on his third spell at handling the Indonesia squad following his likewise short-lived tenure with the side in 2013-2014.
Indonesia is coming off a ban by FIFA following intramurals between its football association and government and will be marking its comeback to major international play in the Suzuki Cup.
The Indonesian booters welcomed the return of the Austrian tactician last Sept. 7 by thrashing Malaysia, 3-0, in a friendly held in the Manahan Stadium in Solo, the hometown of Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
The veteran Indon troika of Boaz Solossa, Adik Vermansyah and Irfan Bachdim scored a goal each in presiding over the demolition of the Malaysians.
Riedl, however, was not about to be carried away by the lopsided outcome.
“We still have a lot of homework, we will keep getting better,” said the Austrian coach in an interview with the official Suzuki Cup website.
Wolfgang Pikal, Riedl’s compatriot and deputy, echoed his sentiments, saying : “We still have a lot of work to be done. Among the areas which we need to improve would be fitness, team compactness and also controlling tempo.”
“For the Indonesian team, this is pretty amazing,” noted impressed Malaysian coach Ong Kim Swee. “They haven’t played (together) for a long time. They wanted to prove they were better and they showed that, indeed, they were better.”
The Azkals face the Merah Puti in their second game in Group A of the Suzuki Cup on Nov. 22 at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan after kicking off their campaign on Nov. 19 against Singapore. They tackle defending champion Thailand in their last match on Nov. 25.