Philippine Azkals head coach Tom Dooley said that he would rely on all 24 players in the preliminary rounds of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier in Russia. The meet will also serve as qualifier for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup in 2019.
“We have 24 secret weapons. 11 to start and the ones who come in they can make a difference for the team. We all start at zero, there’s no privilege for anybody. Everybody has something to offer that is needed and that’s why everybody is a weapon on his own, but he has to pull up his performance and his skill level,” Dooley told The Manila Times in an interview.
A total of 40 teams will be competing in eight groups during the AFC World Cup Asian qualifiers draw in April. The Azkals will compete in Group H with Uzbekistan, Bahrain, Yemen, and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The games are slated June 11 to March 29, 2015.
“This time I can just say that first when the draw came out, I was happy with the draw. Right now I’m looking at the scores that those teams have. When I looked a little more into the details of this [Azkals] club, it’s one of the toughest clubs you can deal with,” said Dooley.
“Bahrain and Uzbekistan are definitely strong teams and you know they’re ahead of us. I can really pretty much say that we are the underdog in that group.”
Among the new members of the team is Filipino-Iranian midfielder Misagh Bahadoran. The Azkals are now preparing for their encounter against Bahrain. The Philippines’ first game will be on the opening day of the tournament.
“For us, the main goal is that we need to score goals. You cannot win games if you don’t score. We [used to]create chances, but we couldn’t score. Now with the new players coming in I hope that we can get that done,” said Dooley.
“Everything is about Bahrain right now. If we wanna have a chance we have to beat Bahrain at home. I love to play against strong teams. I love to compete, and if you want to go to the World Cup and you want to be successful you have to beat teams that no one expects you to beat, and if we do that then it would be nice.”
The Philippines is yet to qualify to a FIFA World Cup finals. The Azkals were eliminated with only one game won against Sri Lanka, 4-0, in the second round of the qualifiers in 2014.