The Philippine Azkals drew inspiration from eight-division boxing champion Manny Pacquiao to keep Thailand at bay and get in a favorable position to barge into the finals of the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup.
Who said football and boxing don’t mix?
The Philippine Azkals played an aggressive game Saturday night against Thailand pulling off a scoreless draw in the first of two legs of the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup semifinals.
And Azkals coach Thomas Dooley shared an unlikely inspiration.
Dooley said that they tried to mimic eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao’s boxing style, mixed it up in their game plan and finally halted the country’s 14 straight losses to Thailand that spanned four decades.
“Manny Pacquiao is a big inspiration for us that we want to move forward. And like what boxers do, when somebody tries hit you, you need to attack,” Dooley explained. “When they (Thailand) are attacking us and as soon as we win the ball we need to attack right away and we did that very well. We kept the ball nicely and created some chances.”
And one of those chances that almost sent the already boisterous partisan crowd inside the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium into complete pandemonium was when striker Phil Younghusband took a perfectly timed through ball from Daisuke Sato in the 53rd minute in a counter attack.
The Thais have committed too many personnel in their attack that Younghusband outran the visiting team’s defensive transition to momentarily engage the goal keeper Kawin Thamsatchanan in a mano a mano match but failed to convert after his legs buckled under him giving the defenders enough time to recover.
Though his team failed to score a goal, Dooley hinted that he will again use the same boxing strategy when they meet the Thais again on Wednesday at the Rajamangala Stadium.
“As I said Manny Pacquiao is our idol and influence also in our game. Like a boxer if somebody tries to hit you, you need to attack and get them on that bad moment. This is the same thing when playing against Thailand,” he added. “If Thailand plays fast and the transition from defense to offense is very good, it’s dangerous. If they put too many players forward then we will actually have a lot of space to counter attack.”
The Azkals leave for Thailand on Monday.