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Dooley and Younghusband Set Sights Towards Uzbekistan



International friendlies are seen by many as a means for coaches to experiment with their tactics, and for players to gel together in preparation for more important games involving the particular national team. The match between the Philippine Men’s National Football Team, popularly known as the Azkals, and Maldives was no different. It was geared towards building up for the Azkals’ FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifying game against Uzbekistan, which will be held in the Philippine Arena on September 8.

Preventing injuries and gaining confidence.

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Dooley and Younghusband Set Sights Towards Uzbekistan

Going into the friendly, one of the worries of Azkals Coach Thomas Dooley was the number of players who would end up in the treatment room. Dooley expressed his fears saying that playing on an artificial turf isn’t good for a player, and that it isn’t the best preparation for the looming game against Uzbekistan. Thankfully, save for a few niggling injuries to two players, no one was seriously injured. Dooley shared, “We have one for Juani Guirado, but he said it’s not that big of a deal, so he should be fine the in next couple of days. Patrick Reichelt has a little problem with his left hamstring, but that should be fine with a good recovery tomorrow and the day after, that would be nice.”

In addition to aiming for zero injuries, gaining confidence from winning was another goal set by Dooley. “Everyone will be there tomorrow, so that’s why we said that we the most important we get a victory out of this game. Nobody gets injured and we gain some confidence.”

The Maldivians are ranked fifty places below the Philippines in the FIFA World Rankings. Moreover, it seemed fitting that only a win would have sufficed for the team. Azkals Captain Phil Younghusband said, “They’re fifty places below us, so if we got a draw or lost, that affects us. The important thing was to get the win and we were able to do that. It had given us confidence. Had we lost of drawn the game, it would have dampened our confidence. Now we have every right to be confident with the way we play and our formation. I think we have big confidence going into the Uzbekistan game.”

Dooley agreed with his captain saying that the matches between Maldives and Uzbekistan are two different ball games. “It’s more of that we played against a team in a friendly game, who is fifty places below us in the FIFA rankings. We just have to win the game. We highly respect them. I told the players, we are the right type of players and we should show that on the field.”

Talking tactics

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Dooley and Younghusband Set Sights Towards Uzbekistan

During the FIFA friendly, the Maldivians were difficult to break down with the first half being goalless. It took an early own goal for Maldives, which led them to defend less to try and salvage something from the game. A few minutes later, a Jerry Lucena goal sealed the match for the Azkals. Younghusband stated that penetrating against a team, which was set up to defend from the start, was difficult to do.

Furthermore, Dooley believed it’s the quick decisions made by his players that was the difference against Maldives. He shares that the team had been practicing various offensive patterns in their training sessions in order to bring the ball in a particular area on the pitch. He opined that the difference between a good player and a great one was how fast he/she decided to execute what needed to be done. Likewise, he stated that if a player saw no other options with regards with what to do with the ball then he should create an opening for himself. Having creative players was also imperative to win. “There were some good patterns when we trained but sometimes it didn’t work out because there was another option in place and that’s fine. That’s why we have players like Phil who is a creative player, and that’s why he plays in the midfield because that is his position, and he is excellent person in that position to be placed in a very short time and that’s what we’re still trying because a lot of players come in a substitution and have to do the same thing.”

Preparing for Uzbekistan

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Dooley and Younghusband Set Sights Towards Uzbekistan

Getting proper conditioning before the Uzbekistan game was imperative for the Azkals. Younghusband noted that a lot of the players arrived from different countries abroad and would have had to get used to playing in the Philippines. “You look back on the game and everyone got playing time, and I think 5 days before a big game, it’s important a lot of players get playing time and get used to the conditions here. Most of the players come from abroad. Conditions are different playing from abroad and playing here in the Philippines, so it was good to get a run out.”

In terms of the game itself, Dooley expects a more open game compared to the one against Maldives. “When we will play against Uzbekistan, the game will be much more open because they are more offensive minded just like our players.” He then shared that he is 99.9% sure of his starting line up in the said game. He stated that with two more training sessions to go anyone can stake a place in the starting lineup and he had utmost confidence in the players he had at his disposal. “We have good players, Stephan Schrock is back and he played a great game. We have some rough diamonds in the side. Kevin Ingreso played a great game too. Stephan Palla came back, he’s stepped up a little bit compared to last time so it’s good to see the players make the extra yards and want to play football together. I’m happy with the players right now which make it hard to pick who plays but also easy because you can’t go wrong.”


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