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Dooley looks forward to important game against Yemen

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The Philippine National Men’s Football Team [Azkals] endured excruciating trips to North Korea and Bahrain in their last two 2018 FIFA World Cup/2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers. The trip to North Korea yielded a credible 0-0 draw, while fatigue took its toll and the Azkals folded 0-2 to Bahrain some days later.

The past results, which included the 1-5 home loss to Uzbekistan, have made the home game versus Yemen on November 12, 2015 (Thursday) at the Rizal Memorial Stadium a must-win for the Azkals. For Azkals coach Thomas Dooley, excitement is the only feeling for the Yemen game just a few days away. “I’d rather play games than training. I’m looking forward to that since it’s an important game for us. I’m really looking forward to the game.”

Dooley said the Azkals have to win against Yemen and the players have to deal with that particular pressure. He added that the Azkals need to win because they have to beat the team behind them to remain in contention for qualification. He accepted, “If we lose then we’re out then anyhow, so it’s kind of difficult.” Dooley added that a win for the Azkals won’t just mean three points but also much needed momentum for them, with Uzbekistan away and North Korea at home to come.

The draw at North Korea was considered a great result for the Azkals. Dooley explained that both teams were evenly matched in the first half but then the Azkals exhibited signs of fatigue in the second half because of their travel time. He felt that the 45,000 strong crowd and the long ball tactics of North Korea failed to unsettle the Azkals’ defense. He said, “We were happy with the tie. That was the most important thing. The players worked very hard to get the result.”

By the time the Azkals got to Bahrain, they had gone through roughly thirty hours of travel and only had around forty-eight hours to recover and prepare for the home side. Dooley lamented, “You can actually see it was still 0-0, the team was going but I said the team that scores the first goal, the other team will fall apart and that’s exactly what happened when they scored. You can see our heads were down, the legs were like done there. They got the lift up and they were like suddenly getting a zap of energy. They could move even better than before. They knocked the ball around which made us a little more tired then obviously the game was over.”

Azkals captain Phil Younghusband has not been called up for the Yemen game due to his suspension. Dooley stated that Younghusband is an important cog of the side but called on his other players to step up in the skipper’s absence; not necessarily someone to be another Younghusband, but someone to contribute as much as the captain. “He doesn’t have to play like him but he has to play successful. He has to play his skills, what he has and whatever he has. That’s what he has to play. So we need to be focused on the game without looking on if we had him and if we had that. He will be missed of course because he’s a player’s player but we don’t have him so we don’t want to be focused on him.”

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Lorenzo's a frustrated author who knows a thing or two about Football and Basketball. Went all green from Ortigas to Taft. Supports Liverpool FC, FC Bayern Munich and the Alaska Aces

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