Sunday, August 2, 2015
Coach Thomas Dooley Steers Philippine Azkals to the Next Level
Philippine Azkals coach Thomas Dooley believes he has formed a squad that will take the country to greater heights against some of Asia’s finest teams in the World Cup Qualifiers.
Now on his second year at the helm of the team, the German-American mentor finally found the best mix of players to banner the country’s bid particularly in the qualifying tournament for football’s most prestigious tournament.
Working closely with Azkals manager Dan Palami, Dooley infused some fresh talent to the team by calling up Luke Woodland, Stephan Palla, Kevin Ingreso and Iain Ramsay for the games against Bahrain and Yemen last June.
The entry of the four players coincided with the return of Stephan Schrock, Neil Etheridge and Javier Patino as well as the resurgence of Misagh Bahadoran who already has two goals in the first two matches.
Midfielder Manny Ott has also improved immensely under Dooley’s reign, while Phil Younghusband remained effective even after the coach switched him from striker to midfielder.
The Azkals’ results have been impressive with a 2-1 home win over Bahrain followed by a 2-0 conquest of Yemen in Qatar in the first two match days in Group H.
“We have a unique team with unique players for each position and they all have unbelievable skill,” said Dooley, who captained the United States in the 1998 World Cup in France.
“What I’m asking from the players is to go 90 minutes with 100 percent of their skill level but always on the collective.”
Dooley added, “We’re trying to build a team and in the last two games we saw that we created the team that we need to be successful.”
The Philippines faces Uzbekistan on Sept. 8 at Philippine Sports Stadium, before flying out for a couple of away matches in Pyongyang against North Korea on Oct. 8 and in Manama for a duel against Bahrain five days later.
The top team in the group will secure a place in the third round together with the four best second placers from among the eight brackets. The 12 teams in the third round will also gain automatic slots to the AFC Asian Cup in 2019. Asia has been allotted four spots in the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia which means the top two from each of the brackets in the third round will qualify.
Tickets for the Azkals vs. Uzbekistan game to be held at the Philippine Sports Stadium on September 8, 2015 are now available at www.ticketworld.com.ph. Tickets are at P531.80 for Price Zone 1, P331.14 for Price Zone 2 and P125.40 for Price Zone 3.