Members of the Philippine Azkals pose for a picture during a press conference in Makati after their runners-up finish in the recent AFC Challenge Cup held in Maldives. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines -- Coach Thomas Dooley suggested that the Philippine Azkals should be less naive and learn to sell contact better if they hope to earn the whistles of the referees, especially in big games.
The Azkals are coming off a second-place finish in the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup, losing in the final against Palestine after Ashraf Nu'man scored off a free kick in the 59th minute.
"We played in the final against maybe the best team of the tournament," Dooley told ABS-CBNnews.com on Tuesday at Outback Glorietta. "They built an unbelievable, strong, defensive team, with big guys in the back, a good goal-keeper."
"Up front, they have a very, very smart forward, No. 7 (Nu'man). That's why, in the end, they won the game on a free kick," he added.
Dooley noted that the Azkals also had their own scoring opportunities -- including a golden chance by Phil Younghusband in the first half that the Loyola Meralco striker agonizingly failed to convert.
"Had he finished that one, maybe it would have been a totally different game," said Dooley.
Moving forward, Dooley said the Azkals "have to do everything faster."
"Our passing, accuracy needs to be better. We have to make faster decisions, and we have to be a little more aggressive," he added.
"And we are a little bit too naive," Dooley admitted. "When you look at these players, No. 7 from Maldives (Ali Ashfaq), and the one from Palestine, those are actors. If you touch them, they are flying."
The Philippine Azkals head coach Thomas Dooley. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
The coach pointed out that Ashfaq and Nu'man earned free kicks several times over the course of the tournament simply by selling -- and perhaps overselling -- contact, something that the Azkals did not do.
"How many times did we have a chance to go down -- in the box, outside the box -- but we are too nice?" he asked. "We don't want to go down. We want to get the ball and want to do something with the ball."
The idea of diving to earn calls may sound abhorrent to fans and indeed it may backfire as a referee may instead charge the player who sold the contact instead of rewarding him with a free kick.
But Dooley insisted that "football is a business, and it's a job, and sometimes, the job is like in a movie. You have to act."
"When you see that, we can be frustrated about the referees, but if we don't give the referees an opportunity to call something for us, that's what we have to learn," said Dooley.
"I think that this is something that we have to go for the next level."
Dooley did express his happiness over the performance of the team, as the Azkals still made history with their best ever finish in the Challenge Cup.
"I'm very happy with how we performed," he said in a press conference. "But we couldn't come back with the trophy, and that makes me a bit sad."