Coach Thomas Dooley just finished his four-part series on his experience in the Asian Cup qualification series and it’s a gold mine of information for those who want to know more, you should check it. Here’s my take on Coach Dooley’s series.
I’m surprised no one from the football beat picked the headline worthy material coach Dooley mentioned in the second part when he said he was shocked that players skipped camp due to other commitments.
“When I played for my national team, I wanted to be there and play for my country as much as possible,” he said.
This issue is a big one, considering one criticism thrown at some players is that after getting a spot in an Asean league as a heritage player through
the Azkals, the national team has become second priority for them. Yes, it’s a club and country issue, one that not only the Philippines have to deal with. But this was a Fifa window.
I remember, the Younghusband brothers got criticized heavily for choosing the dream match over a camp (?) was it and because of that they got dropped, via a text message from the team. That was a bit unfair, but I’m just raising that because of lack of media discussion over what coach Dooley raised.
Just remember though there are always two sides to every story, so let’s not quickly condemn the missing players. But in future camps, should there be missing players, we have to insist on an answer to this question to the management and the PFF, “Do they want to be here?”
Back to Basics
It’s curious that in his first training sessions, the emphasis was on basics. That’s pretty much sums up the team the last time we saw them, they needed a refresher on the basics. A senior team tackling basics? I used to scoff at the idea of elite athletes doing basics too, until I learned that the late Kobe Bryant spent the first hour of his early dawn training routine doing basics, telling one lucky observer that, “Just because it’s basic, doesn’t mean it’s not hard.
Here’s a nice video about Kobe and his love for basics.
The Yemen Game
In hindsight, it’s safe to say that this game cost us a spot in the AFC Asian Cup, it was a match we dominated but couldn’t win. Behind the scenes, it was interesting to learn that unlike us, Yemen trained for more than two months but a change in personnel meant whatever scouting the Azkals had were thrown out of the window.
We used to do that also. We used to have the senior team train for a month or even two at least but that was pre-2010 and the early part of the training was getting the players fit. Now that we have professionals in the squad, training is limited to Fifa windows and geared on cohesion, not getting players match-ready.
Coach also pointed out how the team reverted to long balls in the last 15 minutes as the players pressured themselves to win the game. To be honest, I don’t remember that nor did I notice it. I was too darn frustrated with the missed chances, the first in a long time that I got too emotionally involved in an Azkals game. The previous ones, well, remember all those “temper expectations” statements?
I wasn’t emotionally invested because I tempered my expectations. Prior to the Asian Cup, and knowing the short preparation and issues, I told myself to not be emotionally invested with the team. That went through the window after the first half and seeing how different this team was. I thought, we can do this!
The Mongolia Game
It’s interesting how different the mindset of coach Dooley was compared to me and some other fans. After seeing that first half, when we made them look like an age group team, we should have two or three goals in the second half.
But his mindset? Palestine, with all that scoring prowess, could only get one against Mongolia. That keeper was headed for a Man of the Match performance, if not for Gerrit Holtmann’s late strike. This was a game that put my lap top in peril twice; the first was when Patrick Reichelt missed that penalty and the second when Holtmann scored that winner. It came off a quick and short corner, but we didn’t see that because the broadcaster was still replaying that heroic save of the keeper.
Sure, for a player of his caliber, Reichelt should have made that penalty but penalties aren’t easy. Back in 2011, during the Azkals first training session at BGC, I had a friendly bet with Dan Palami whether I can score on him or he on me on a penalty. I forgot what the wager was about but I never forgot thinking after picking the ball at the back of the net, “Sir Dan can surely kick!” Coach Ernie was there too and decided to join the friendly banter and I picked the ball at the back of the net for the second time after failing to score for the second time.
Aside from losing both wagers, I lost my newly-purchased shades also but it was a nice experience, one I always remember whenever I see players taking penalties to remind myself it’s not as easy as it seems and there’s a reason my high school coach never made me the designated spot kicker.
Maybe in the next training camp, it there’s a time for fan interaction, maybe the coaching staff could invite five fans to take spot kicks against the designated spot kickers (?). Not only will it be a nice way for the team to interact with fans, it would be educational too for them.