Azkals can't be complacent after Challenge Cup draw

By Camille B. Naredo,

Posted at Feb 13 2014 07:14 PM | Updated as of Feb 14 2014 11:24 PM

MANILA – The Philippine Azkals cannot afford to be complacent even if they are the highest ranked team in their group in the AFC Challenge Cup, new national team head coach Thomas Dooley warned.

The Azkals, ranked 127th in the world by FIFA, were grouped with Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Laos in Group B of the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup, to be held in May in Maldives.

Turkmenistan is ranked 133rd in the world, while Afghanistan is ranked 138th, and Laos is 156th.

Although the Azkals are the highest-ranked team, they cannot afford to relax.

“It doesn’t mean anything,” Dooley said of the draw. “If you think that you will already be in the semi-finals because the teams are behind us (in the ranking) then we have lost already.”

Dooley stressed the importance of “visualizing” the victory for the players, believing that it is an important step in their preparation for the Challenge Cup.

“This is something that I would like to let the players know, that you have to start thinking about that (the Challenge Cup) right now,” he said.

“You have to visualize winning the tournament. You hold the trophy in your hands… everything about winning this tournament, how nice it is, how you feel, that’s what they have to think about,” he added.

Dooley hopes the Azkals’ two friendlies in March – against Malaysia and Azerbaijan – will go a long way towards preparing them for the Challenge Cup.

“It’s a little bit difficult right now, obviously, because we don’t have a lot of time going into the Challenge Cup,” he said. “We have those two games in the next couple of weeks, where we can get the international players for two days only.”

“It’s not a lot that we can work on, on what we would like to accomplish, but it’s an interesting job,” he added.