The Philippine National Football Team must win its upcoming tune up games at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila, according to head coach Thomas Dooley.
The Azkals are scheduled to face Central Asian squad Bahrain on October 7 and North Korea on October 10, which will serve as the team’s lead up to the Suzuki Cup group stage in November.
“Every win is important for self confidence. We need to play against strong teams even if there is a chance we can lose,” the 54-year-old American coach told The Manila Times in an interview.
He reiterated the need of the squad to battle higher-ranked teams to test the team’s strength as part of the training for their bigger tournament and to help the Azkals ascend in the FIFA international rankings.
“We will find out individually [in the games]where we need to stay and where we need to improve or if we need to find a better solution,” Dooley mentioned.
The Azkals last met the Bahrainis, ranked No. 126 in the world, in a 0-2 loss in October in 2015. The Filipino booters handed the No. 118-placed North Koreans a 3-2 upset win in March.
The Azkals have experienced a dip in their standing after failing to schedule friendlies in the previous windows.
The Philippines, on the other hand, once again retook its place as the team to beat under the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) as they moved up to the No. 125 spot following their win against Kyrgyzstan, 2-1, in September.
Dooley welcomed the rise of the Azkals as the top dogs in the Southeast Asian region in the recent rankings.
“I feel great about it. It should give us a boost but the key is to be 100 percent concentrated and fit. It is only positive for us,” he said.
However, he stressed that they must not be too confident in spite of leading the region’s football circuit but reiterated that it should be a motivation to work harder in their preparations.
“If we think that it gives us a freebie and if we take the game with overconfidence, then it will harm our performances in the games,” he concluded.
Besides the two scheduled exhibition matches, the national team will also clash with Kyrgyzstan for the second leg of their friendly in Manila on November 9.
The Philippines will be hosting Group A of the upcoming Southeast Asian football championship starting November 19 and will go up against the teams of Singapore, Indonesia and defending champions Thailand.