THE Philippine national football team has lost in a final of a competition twice in a row now, and coach Thomas Dooley is concerned with the Azkals’ failure to bring their A-game in the biggest stage of a tournament. Biridesmaids in the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup in May, the Azkals fell short again in the Philippine Football Federation Peace Cup last week. Dooley hopes the Azkals could sort things out in time for the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup in November.
“We are on the right track, but a little thing we have to find out is how we can win in a final,” the German-American mentor said. “How can we play our best game in the final?” “Most of the time we play great, but in the first couple weeks of a major tournament, you don’t play great,” the former US World Cup captain added. “You find your team and then you get better and better. And then the final is actually the time you play your best.”
The Azkals flashed their potential with a 5-1 thumping of Chinese Taipei in their knockout match last Wednesday, but regressed in the 2-3 extra-time loss to the Burmese on Saturday. “For us, the final is where we’re not playing our best,” Dooley said. “Maybe it has something to do with fitness. I don’t know.” Azkals skipper Rob Gier admitted of feeling of pressure of playing in an all-important match. “There’s extra pressure,” the Filipino-British center-back said. “Young players and old players feel that.” “But as long as every player takes a bit of experience and positivity out of these finals, then we’ll know how to play these types of games better,” he added. The Azkals hope to finally get over the hump in the Suzuki Cup, where they are the top-ranked squad.
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