Dooley has high hopes for PH Azkals
ALTHOUGH the conditions are less than ideal, American coach Thomas Dooley still believes that he has more time to prepare the Philippine Azkals the second time around for the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup kicking off on Nov. 19 at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan.
“Everything went wrong with our training the last time,” said Dooley, recalling his maiden Suzuki Cup stint with the Filipino booters, who were drained from the long the United Football League season two years ago, then had to travel out of the country for the group stage.
Despite these challenges, the Azkals reached the semifinals of Southeast Asia’s men’s football tournament for the third time in a row before being booted out by irrepressible Thais, who, under coach and Thai legend Kiatisuk Senamuang, went on to capture their fourth championship.
A former US team captain and two-time World Cup veteran, Dooley noted that most of his players now suit up for squads in the UFL and unlike in 2014, the Azkals won’t be traveling overseas as the country hosts one of the group stages for the first time.
“We are staying in the country at the start of the tournament so that we won’t have to travel much, which is an advantage. Most of our players are also playing in the UFL so we won’t have to wait for those playing overseas to come over and train,” Dooley said.
He added that he would give most of his players who saw action in the UFL, whose season wound up last Sunday, at least a few more days off before they get down to brass tacks and start girding for the Suzuki Cup.
The Nationals are coming off a pair of 1-3 setbacks to Bahrain and North Korea, last Oct. 7 and 10, respectively, at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium, losses that exposed the weaknesses of the squad but which Dooley looked at as valuable learning experiences.
Despite those defeats, surprisingly, the Filipinos still managed to move up a notch to No. 124 in the latest International Football Federation world rankings released over the weekend. They likewise remained Southeast Asia’s top team in the ratings.
Dooley would rather have the Azkals take their licks now, learn their lessons and avoid the same mistakes in the Suzuki Cup.