Something is wrong when the other team scores and yours don’t despite having at least two opportunities to slam one or two into the back of the net.
Or so said Azkals coach Thomas Dooley said after his wards were stunned by unfancied Yemen, 1-0, in a November 12 FIFA qualifier at the Rizal Memorial Stadium for the World Cup in Russia in 2018.
The problem is that Dooley said he does not know what is “missing.”
Well, even if the unexpected loss to the Yemeni eleven had already eliminated the Philippines from the third round of the qualifiers and the World Cup itself, the German-American coach of the country’s national men’s football team still has to play two more matches before he and his charges can officially bow out of the hunt for the Jules Rimet trophy—an away game against Uzbekistan and a clash at home against North Korea, with both ties to be held next year.
He has at least three months to think things over and search for what he thinks is there but he just can’t find it yet before he and the Azkals jet to Tashkent and meet the team from Pyongyang in Manila.
Dooley was just being tactful with the Azkals when he said the team was poor in “finishing” or putting a period to a shot at goal.
Unlike Team Yemen that the Azkals clobbered 2-0 in September in Qatar, Team Philippines has not really played together as a squad whose members fully give their time, literally, to the cause.
Dooley himself said the visitors had been together “two months,” whereas majority of the Azkals are scattered all over Europe and only suit up for the country for a scheduled friendly or International.
Meaning, they fly to Manila or wherever a match is to be played, don their uniform, play for 90 minutes or so and then fly back to where they ply their trade as professional football players.
As we say in these parts, “Ni ha, ni ho, wala.”
For the “beautiful game” that supposedly can be won only through team effort, the idea that less than absolute dedication to flag and country will do against a side like Yemen that is ranked much lower than the Azkals in the FIFA rolls is garbage.
Without intending to take anything away from any of the Azkals—after all, they have been doing their patriotic duty selflessly—this corner suggests that more homegrown players be scouted and developed into highly competitive footballers like the Azkals.
That way, nothing gets in the way of playing full time for the Philippines, whose next turn for a stab at international football glory will come a year or two before the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
We don’t mind losing internationals because that’s how the football cookie crumbles but it pains us to see “winnable” games like the away game against Bahrain last month and this recent one against Yemen snatched away from us like we were pushovers.
For football to gain more popularity in the Philippines, the Azkas will have to pocket a game or two, preferably against the Uzbeks and the North Koreans in the first quarter of 2016.
Tall order, but then we trust that Dooley will have found what is “missing” just before crunch time.