For Thomas Dooley, focus falls on Azkals win before anything else
Santino Honasan on Mar 26, 2018 05:53 PM
“If we’re thinking too much about how big this game is, everybody may be under pressure and you feel the pressure too much, but you shouldn’t. You should be focused on the what we have to do, on the field for 90 minutes, and then after that, we can talk about what we achieved.”
On the brink of making Philippine football history, the Philippine Azkals find themselves about to play arguably the biggest game in team history as they take on Tajikistan at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium on Tuesday, March 22nd.
A win, or at the very least, a draw, will send the Philippines to the AFC Asian Cup tournament for the first time since the tournament’s inception in 1956.
Taking everything into consideration, the Azkals find themselves in a very good position to clinch their spot in the prestigious tournament, being that they’re currently sitting at the top of Group F, two ahead of Tajikistan or Nepal, and that they’ve beaten Tajikistan before, on enemy ground.
And while it would be easy to rest on these and just shoot for a draw, the Azkals just aren’t in the business of settling for just barely getting in.
On Tuesday, against the visiting Tajikistan side - who in turn need a win - the Azkals are out to get maximum points.
“This is a game that we have to win because we want to win our home games. We wanna win every game. It’s important for us to beat a team that we’ve beaten before, and we haven’t lost a game yet in the tournament, so we wanna do the same, we don’t wanna lose the game at home.” Azkals head coach Thomas Dooley said during Monday’s pre-game press conference. “It’s gonna be very difficult, there are no easy games in football, and that’s a strong team, they’re fast, they’re technical, they fight, they showed that in the second half over there, so we have to be prepared, we have to be focused. Our focus is winning the game. If it comes out as a tie, it’s okay, but we’re trying to win our game.”
Being a win away from making it to the biggest tournament that the Azkals have been on, it’s easy for the players to get lost in the sheer magnitude of Tuesday night’s match, and Dooley wants his boys to take their minds off just how important this match is and treat it as any other must-win match.
“We’re trying to take away what everybody’s talking about, how big this game is. The outcome, maybe, is big, but the game is not bigger than all the other games. We play against a very strong team, Tajikistan is a very good team, so we need to win our game, we wanna win our game.”
Knowing what’s at stake and knowing just how big this match is could get to the players and the pressure of the situation could lead to mistakes and collapses on the pitch, and that’s what Dooley would like to avoid.
Instead, the former US National Team skipper would like his players to keep the focus on their respective roles on the pitch and make getting the win the primary goal.
“We want to be focused on what we did, we're focused on what we’re trying to accomplish in the game, what everybody has to do defensively, offensively, to beat the opponent, to beat a single player in their team and the whole team, Tajikistan, that’s what the focus should be.”
“If we’re thinking too much about how big this game is, everybody may be under pressure and you feel the pressure too much, but you shouldn’t. You should be focused on the what we have to do, on the field for 90 minutes, and then after that, we can talk about what we achieved.” Dooley added.
While it’s easier said than done, the Azkals will need to make sure that they’re phyisically and of course mentally prepared as they get said to play the most important ninety minutes of their lives as members of the Philippine National Team.
Catch the Azkals as they take on Tajikistan in their final 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers match on Tuesday, March 27th, LIVE on LIGA channel 86 and LIGA HD channel 183. Kickoff is at 7:30 PM.