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Dooley sees positive signs in second debut as Azkals gear up for Mongolia


Coach Thomas Dooley sounded like a satisfied man after his first game back in charge of the Philippine Azkals.

The Azkals still managed to earn a credible 0-0 draw against Yemen last Tuesday in their first game in the third qualifying round of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup amidst setbacks that include a lack of training time and the unavailability of key personnel.

“Only having a couple of training sessions on the field makes it difficult but also I’m very pleased about how quickly we adjusted to what we want to do,” said Dooley. “(Yemen) were much more organized than we saw in all those tapes that we have seen in the last two to three years.

“The basic thing is we have to play our game and our game, because we decided on players who can play football, we need to keep the ball. We need to keep the ball and keep possession and wait until we get the chance.

“We created a couple of nice chances with some nice passing patterns to get into the box but it’s also difficult because the other team is also aware of what we’re trying to do. Overall, I was very pleased with the way that we handled the ball,” he continued.

The erstwhile Major League Soccer standout had the likes of Phil Younghusband, Chris Greatwich, and Misagh Bahadoran to work with during his first stint with the team back in 2014-2018.

Now, he is forced to train new and younger players such as Oliver Bias, Oskari Kekkonen, and Sandro Reyes in his program. The 61-year-old mentor wouldn’t have it any other way though and he is excited that he can nurture some of the country’s best young talents.

#ReadMore  Palami reflects on campaign, hopes Dooley re-signs with Azkals

“It was a good feeling to let them start because I believe in them,” said Dooley. “When you watch the game again and you see how easy it was for them sometimes to make a decision, how comfortable they are with the ball – it’s amazing for those young players.

“Oliver was a little bit left behind because most of the time we played over the right side. But Oliver is somebody who can handle the ball. He has good touches. He just needs to be a little bit more involved so that he can show what he has.”

Palestine’s 1-0 win over Mongolia later in the day added a sense of urgency. The Palestinians now top Group B with three points, making the margin of error thinner for the Azkals if they wish to return to Asian football’s biggest stage.

With the Mongolians on the horizon, Dooley knows only a win will do for his team as they seek to be one of the 11 teams which will join the tournament proper.

The Philippines emerged victorious over Mongolia 3-2 on aggregate the last time both sides faced off in the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers and a similar result will be welcome on Saturday.

“It’s always difficult. We don’t even know how they’ll play against us. Maybe they think they can play us a little bit more offensively. Maybe they’ll open up a little bit but I don’t think so,” said Dooley.

“Palestine players are taller than ours and they couldn’t actually manage to create a goal without a penalty… It will be very, very difficult. We’re trying to play football on the ground and get behind their defense… They’re very energized playing in front of their own fans. It’s not easy. It’s difficult.”

Written By

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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