THOMAS Dooley kept his focus on leading the Philippine Azkals to new heights with one last chance in making history by qualifying for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, despite the noise surrounding the team’s recent string of underwhelming performances and his insistent omission of in-form midfielder Stephan Schrock from the national squad.
The Azkals only snagged three points out of the possible nine in their final three matches in the qualifiers, which turned the final qualifying match against Tajikistan on Tuesday a crucial one as a loss will see the Philippine team fall short anew in its historic bid to qualify to the AFC Asian Cup.
But the 56-year old mentor remained unfazed despite the pressure and the struggles of the team, as he sees a different view from the players in their buildup for an international friendly against Fiji on Thursday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
“The chemistry is great, the attitude is excellent. The players are laughing, and happy to be here and they enjoy to be here. It looks great. It’s something we want. We want to be positive heading into Tajikistan and that’s all that we need,” said Dooley.
The absence of Schrock from the Azkals lineup has also been something that has long baffled Philippine football fans but Dooley insisted he’s confident with his roster, following a fallout with the Fil-German player after a feud in 2014 where the Philippine team coach called the Ceres star ‘selfish’ and ‘unprofessional.’
“We have the best team at the moment that we can have at the Philippines. I don’t want to go to all the criticisms you guys might have because, just follow the facts, you will see the best players we have which can support the nation is there,” he continued.
“We have a great attitude and great chemistry for the team and I’m very very happy with that.”
Dooley also defended the choice of playing Fiji as their opponents heading into what could be the most crucial game the country has played so far.
The squad from the Oceana currently sits at 168th in the FIFA rankings, 46 slots lower than the Philippines. Most of the players of the Fiji national team also have day-jobs on the side, with only one squad in the line-up playing professionally in Roy Krishna.
But for Dooley, it’s still match worth taking.
“When you’re preparing, a friendly is always better than a regular training day,” Dooley said.
“In my opinion, I have so much respect for them they have very physical players, fast players, young players. They don’t think of Phil, they don’t think of Neil in goal, they’re thinking ‘give me the ball and I’ll take that shot to score the goal,’ we need to prepare what we want to show and the end’s not that important.”