Azkals head coach Thomas Dooley
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine national football team has begun preparing for the AFC Challenge Cup in May, with new head coach Thomas Dooley naming the 34 players who will form the training pool for the tournament.
A mix of old and new players took part in the first training session held at the Emperador Stadium, with former skipper Aly Borromeo making his return to the team after an injury.
“I’m back to training with the guys. I joined them in the warm-ups and drills, passing drills and stuff, but no contact (exercises) yet,” Borromeo said.
Dooley, a former member of the United States national team, met with the team before the start of the training session to unveil his vision and strategy for the Azkals.
“He gave us a PowerPoint presentation to explain his plan, and it’s good that he has a plan,” James Younghusband said. “He just wants us to play simple football, which is good.”
Dooley gets to work with the national training pool twice a week.
“Obviously everything is new. The drills that we do are new, the passing exercise,” Dooley said. “It takes a while, so there will be some mistakes. They need to adjust to the training style that I have. I want everything fluid and everything quick, so it takes a while.”
Dooley said he wants to observe every player first – including the Azkals based abroad – before naming the team that he will bring to the Challenge Cup in May.
“Of course, I want to see everybody, I want to talk to everybody individually,” he said. “I have a couple more weeks to see what we have over here, who wants to be there, and how good they are to help the team to be successful.”
The Azkals will play Malaysia and Azerbaijan in two FIFA international friendlies ahead of the Challenge Cup, and then hold a training camp in the Middle East during Holy Week.
Meanwhile, the Azkals were drawn to Group B of the Challenge Cup, where they will play Turkmenistan, Laos and Afghanistan.
Dooley has three months to prepare the team for their goal of winning the Challenge Cup and qualifying to the Asian Cup. -- From a report by Dyan Castillejo, ABS-CBN News.