New Philippine Azkals head coach Thomas Dooley. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA – New national team head coach Thomas Dooley dreams of bringing the Philippine Azkals to the biggest and brightest of stages even as he stresses the need to focus on the immediate goal – winning the AFC Challenge Cup in May.
Dooley was brought in to replace former head coach Hans Michael Weiss, and will only have a couple of months to prepare the national team for the Challenge Cup in Maldives.
“We have a huge tournament coming up in May that we have to win,” Dooley said in an interview on ANC’s “Hardball” on Wednesday.
Dooley, who played for the United States in the early 1990s, said winning the Challenge Cup will be the first step that the Azkals will take towards “the next level,” but they must not stop there.
“I want to play against – and it should be the goal for the players too – I want to play against the big teams,” he said. “I want to play against the Japanese, I want to play against Korea. I want to play in front of 40-50,000 people.”
“So it doesn’t mean that I don’t want to play against those teams that we play right now, but… I want to play in the World Cup. It’s not possible with the team at the moment, because we cannot qualify. But if we have a year, two years, three years or four years, you’re developing the players that we have here in Manila,” he added.
Winning the Challenge Cup will give the Azkals a spot in the Asian Cup, which will in turn bring the team closer to Dooley’s dream of playing against the best teams in Asia.
But the focus of the squad should be on the Challenge Cup, stressed the coach, especially as they have only a short time to prepare.
“It’s difficult because you don’t have enough time to get the players involved in training and teaching them all of the way that you want to play,” he admitted.
Dooley feels that most if not all of the national team players are skillful and have good technique, but they have to work on their tactics as he wants to introduce a more offensive-minded style of play.
“The players, individually, they are pretty good. They have a lot of talent, and they are technically good,” he said. “The biggest goal for me is, tactically, that we work together.”