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Tiebreaker Times


In quest to join Asian elite, Dooley wary of problems along the way

Since the Miracle of Hanoi in 2010, which effectively revived the popularity of football in the country, the Philippines is now getting ever closer to capping off the glorious decade of football by making it to the 2019 Asian Cup.

The mission to qualify got off to a rousing start as the Azkals demolished Nepal, 4-1, to take an early lead in Group F of the third and final qualifying round for the competition to be held in the United Arab Emirates a little less than two years from now. Though it is still early days, the win against a team they have yet to lose against is a good omen for a country eager to show what they’ve got on the continental level.

Despite the convincing win, Philippines men’s national football team head coach Thomas Dooley isn’t too happy about achieving the first step towards qualification. Dooley acknowledged after the game that there are certain issues that need to be addressed moving forward.

Among those things was the lack of focus evident in some portions of the game against Nepal, particularly the moment when Bishal Rai gave the visitors a lifeline right before halftime, making the score 3-1 with 45 minutes still left.

A defender himself, Dooley aired concerns on defense, notably during the closing stages of both halves of the game.

“I think every goal is avoidable. That’s what I was really upset about in halftime.

“Another thing that upsets me a little bit is corner kicks against us and free kicks against us. It’s about marking. Everybody has to mark a player and I would be with that player until we have the ball,” the 55-year-old American went on to say.

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Another thing the Azkals coach wants to avoid is conflict between club and country in the long term.

The scheduled Philippines Football League, which will be the new premier competition in Philippine club football, is set to kick off next month alongside the participation of Global-Cebu and Ceres-Negros in the 2017 AFC Cup, and these are some things that the American mentor hopes won’t get in the way in the future.

This was after Dooley had expressed unhappiness over not having an ideal build up ahead of this international break, saying; “Players didn’t get released early enough that we could prepare against Malaysia.

“We only had a day or a day and a half to prepare for a preparation game against Malaysia. I was hoping that Ceres would support the national team as much as Meralco, Kaya, Global, Davao and Vigan and all those teams will do to.”

But the Azkals coach can also count himself blessed to be working with a deep pool of talented players. Missing mainstays Manny Ott, Kevin Ingreso and Misagh Bahadoran due to sustained injuries from the Malaysia friendly last week, the Azkals still managed to play impressively, especially as some players didn’t feature in their preferred positions.

“I didn’t test the players out; it’s more like I had to,” Dooley stated.

2019-Asian-Cup-Qualifiers-Philippine-Azkals-vs.-Nepal-Azkals-XI In quest to join Asian elite, Dooley wary of problems along the way Football News PFL Philippine Azkals  - philippine sports news

He elaborated that Dennis Villanueva, a midfielder for Global, had to cover in the back four with club teammate Amani Aguinaldo, flanked by Daisuke Sato and Carli de Murga, who got the nod ahead of Junior Muñoz — who had to start from the bench due to paperwork issues.

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“We found out last night that he is not able to play because he wasn’t registered. They said that he has to be registered seven days before so there was no chance for him to play. At lunch time we got an email that they allowed him to play,” Dooley shared.

Ahead of the next international break, when the Azkals will resume their bid to qualify for the Asian Cup, the former Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke defender revealed plans to meet with China in a friendly prior to the Tajikistan game, one that he is looking forward to with a positive mindset.

“We are going over there not to lose. A tie would be great, if we can win then it’d be awesome,” the one-time UEFA Cup winner said with conviction. Their meeting with the Tajikistan men’s national football team in Dushanbe will take place on June 13.

After falling short by just one game in the lead-up to the Australia 2015 edition of the Asian Cup, the Azkals know that they cannot take everything for granted. Now they hope to emulate what they’ve done in the club scene by also making it to the biggest competition in Asia, and in the process, truly signify the vast progress Philippine football has made.

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