Ahead of biggest match in history, Thomas Dooley wants the Azkals to go back to ‘enjoying football’
Santino Honasan on Mar 21, 2018 05:15 PM
"The most important thing I want to see is the players enjoying to be back on the field, with a fresh mind and a fresh brain and fresh legs and bodies,"
In the coming week, the Philippine Azkals find themselves back on the pitch as they’re set to play twice, in an International Friendly match against Fiji on Thursday, March 22nd, in their final 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifier match against Tajikistan on Tuesday, March 27th, both at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila.
While the match against Fiji is just a friendly and will serve as a tuneup, the match against Tajikistan is quite possibly the most important match in Philippine football history.
A win next Tuesday sends the Azkals into the AFC Asian Cup tournament for the first time in history.
And to make sure that they Azkals play at their best in both those games, head coach Thomas Dooley wants to see his boys having fun on the pitch.
“The most important thing that I want to see is the players having fun, enjoying the game, enjoying football, because that’s the main focus that we had in this camp, we want to have a positive camp,” said Dooley during the pre-match press conference, Wednesday.
After beginning the Group Stage of the qualifiers with back-to-back wins against Nepal and Tajikistan in early-mid 2017, the Azkals went on a three-month stretch that saw them draw all their succeeding Qualifiers matches, including a 0-0 draw in their second round go-around against Nepal.
A win would have already sealed the Philippines’ spot in the AFC tournament.
Now, ahead of their upcoming matches, Dooley says that he’s liking what he’s seeing from the team.
“I can see that in the last couple of days, we only had two days, three and a half, but I can see that it’s a great atmosphere that we have, and just would see that in the game [Thursday] that they’re enjoying to be there, playing nice football, and the playing the way we would like to play against Tajikistan.”
While having fun is an important aspect of the game, Dooley isn’t losing sight of the ultimate task, which is to get wins.
“We want to win those games of course, we want to win any game, but if I have to make a choice between winning games tomorrow and Tajikistan, I would rather lose [on Thursday] and win against Tajikistan, but it’s not like that in life. You have to always prepare for every single game.”
“Players have to take it serious, and the most important thing I want to see is the players enjoying to be back on the field, with a fresh mind and a fresh brain and fresh legs and bodies, and this is something I would like to see, and I’m pretty sure you’re going to see that.” Dooley added.
Catch the Azkals as they take on Fiji in an International Friendly Match on Thursday, March 22nd, LIVE on LIGA channel 86 and LIGA HD channel 183. Kickoff is at 7:30 PM.