For a team that’s struggling to lure fans to watch in their own stadium again, the Philippine Azkals know victories even in friendly matches are now a priority.
And with six weeks to go before kickoff in the AFF Suzuki Cup, the Azkals are also hard-pressed to play attractive attacking football, while sorting out a defensive line that’s undergoing a transition.
But coach Thomas Dooley is experienced enough to understand that good performances do not necessarily get rewarded with victories in the same way that wins could come even if his team doesn’t play up to standards.
“Of course, I want to play nice, but what’s important now is having that confidence to win even if we don’t play well,” said Dooley.
“Results are all that matters. We did not play well against Kyrgyzstan but we got the win. That’s the spirit and mentality we want to develop because we know we can’t dominate games all the time.”
The Azkals, who came away with a 2-1 victory in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek last month, return to action against a familiar foe in Bahrain in an international friendly at 8 tonight at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The game starts a tough two-game stretch for the Azkals, who also take on North Korea on Monday also at RMS.
Both matches are aimed at preparing the Azkals for the bigger, more important battles ahead in the group stage of the Suzuki Cup, where they will face Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand.
As much as he wants a packed stadium for both friendly games, Dooley knows his team would have to win back the fans first by winning and playing well just in time for the Suzuki Cup, which kicks off Nov. 19 at Philippine Sports Stadium in Bulacan.
“It’s no longer friendly matches for us right now,” Dooley. “Its always a fight for the country, for the spectators and for sponsorships.”