Azkals confident, motivated against Maldives (Philippines Daily Inquirer)

Riding high after winning their first two games in the Fifa World Cup qualifiers, the Philippine Azkals are confident about their chances heading into their upcoming matches.

And coach Thomas Dooley hopes that his players’ winning mentality will carry over to the Azkals’ international friendly against Maldives on Thursday at Rizal Memorial Stadium.

I told the players weeks ago that we want to take every game seriously and win every game, he said. The players are confident and very motivated for the match. The energy of the team is very good, so that’s the most important thing for us as of the moment.

The friendly is part of the Philippines’ buildup for its World Cup qualifying match against Uzbekistan, the highest-ranked team in their bracket, next Tuesday at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bulacan.

We’re looking forward to the game tomorrow (Thursday) and expect the players to follow the gameplan, said Dooley.

The Azkals will be going up against a new-look Maldives squad with only four holdovers from the team they faced in the semifinals of the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup.

Though team captain Ali Ashfaq will not be suiting up for the friendly, a formidable team still poses a big challenge for the Nationals.

It’s a different team. Though they’re a new team, they’re still difficult to play against, Dooley said. The important thing here is (our preparation for) Uzbekistan, but we still want to take this match seriously.

For its part, Maldives is also eyeing for a better exhibition before it continues its journey in the World Cup qualifiers.

Maldives coach Ismail Mahfooz said, I believe playing against a strong team like the Philippines is going to help us in our World Cup qualifying against China. It’s going to be a wonderful game against a strong team.