Philippine Azkals head coach Thomas Dooley said that his wards are in great shape and are ready to exact revenge on their Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup tormentors.
“It can’t be better to have the three teams in our group who kicked us out the last three semifinals. It’s a great chance to give them the revenge and kick two out of the competition,” Dooley told The Manila Times.
For the past three editions of the Suzuki Cup, the Philippines failed to enter the finals of the biennial regional football championship.
The Azkals lost to Indonesia, 0-1, in the semis in 2010, and to Singapore 0-1 in 2012.
Reigning champion Thailand beat the Azkals in the semifinals of the last edition of the Suzuki Cup 0-3.
The Azkals, who have been drawn in Group A for the preliminary round, will face the same rivals Singapore, Indonesia and champion Thailand this year.
“I like to win and it is a great feeling to go step-by-step. We never went to the finals. This is a perfect opportunity to reach the next step on the ladder and get into the finals,” Dooley said.
The 54-year-old former American soccer team skipper added that he is positive about his wards being housed with Southeast Asian rivals Thailand.
“I like to have “the best team” Thailand in our group, so if everything goes well we avoid them in the semifinals. Two games in the semifinals against any other team in Group B should be doable,” Dooley said.
“Thailand is absolutely the best team in the tournament. They have a young team who is playing together, I guess since the Under-17 level. They have a very strong league and more than 60000 fans who are pushing them to the limit,” he added.
Dooley also stressed that playing against Singapore and Indonesia will not be an easy task but added that he believes in the readiness of his team, “Singapore has a new coach and maybe they will be motivated and coming in with a positive mindset. Indonesia definitely wants to have revenge (against us) too, after a horrible defeat in the last Suzuki Cup.”
Dooley said that he is confident that he can assemble the best line-up for the meet.
“Since the last year, we have had the majority of the starting players playing in the Philippine league. The level of our players here in the Philippines is rising and it makes it more difficult for international-based player to compete against them in the line-up.”
Dooley also revealed that the Azkals plan to play five games in the next international windows to bolster the team’s capability for the AFF Championship.
“I am working everyday to prepare the team for the next game. We have hopefully five more games before the tournament. Each and every game is the most important game at any moment,” he concluded.
The Azkals will be hosting their regional counterparts in the group stage of the Southeast Asian football meet at the 25,000-seater Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan starting November 19.