MANILA, Philippines – Thomas Dooley guided the Philippine Azkals to a scoreless draw versus Yemen in his first game back, and he sees it as a triumphant return after parting ways with the team four years ago.
The 61-year-old mentor said he saw “a lot of good things” in the Azkals’ opening game against Yemen in the AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers in Mongolia on Wednesday, June 8.
Dooley noted that the national men’s football team still has a strong chance to qualify in the prestigious continental tournament, even with the Azkals missing Bundesliga’s left-footed winger Gerrit Holtmann in the first game.
“We know he got married on Saturday so he has a honeymoon with his wife for a couple of days and he will join us tomorrow. So he will be here tomorrow,” Dooley said of Holtmann, who’s playing for VfL Bochum.
The 27-year-old Holtmann has been playing scintillating club football recently so his highly anticipated Azkals debut will absolutely be a massive boost for the team.
“He is maybe our strongest player in the offense. He plays in the Bundesliga. Scored beautiful goals against Dortmund, against Bayern Munich,” said Dooley.
“Obviously we haven’t played with him, the players haven’t played with him, we hadn’t worked together so it’s difficult to say if he would’ve been there, maybe we would’ve scored. I would say, if we would have everybody together, we would’ve won the game.”
With the draw against Yemen, the Azkals now have a crucial point as they vie for the top spot in Group B.
Palestine leads the group with 3 points after notching a 1-0 win over Mongolia in its opening game.
The Philippines can secure a slot in the 18th edition of the quadrennial tournament if it tops the group or becomes one of the five best second-placed teams.
“We saw a lot of good things in the game, how we played,” said Dooley, noting that he was “pleased.”
“We rushed a little bit in the end, we should’ve played more like we did in the first half, so we didn’t do that… but overall, there’s nothing lost yet.” – Rappler.com