PYONGYANG – Philippine national men’s football team coach Thomas Dooley lauded the Azkals for putting up a tough fight against a more fancied North Korean side before 50,000-strong hometown fans in the FIFA World Cup qualifier on Thursday at Kim Il-Sung Stadium here.
The Azkals stunned North Korea to a scoreless draw in one of the rare winless results by the hosts.
“Not anybody can force a draw in North Korea,” Dooley said.
“We could see that it was a very difficult game, we know why North Korea is in first place. Very physical, very tall players, long balls in the second half, very quick.
“With the long journey that we had, people were cramping up, guys were cramping up… but overall I’m very happy that the team fought and never gave up.
“The players were playing with heart, never gave up and tried to play football.”
The Azkals had to go through a lot on this rare trip to the reclusive state, having to endure long travel and also weather the overwhelming crowd that from start to finish cheered loudly for the home team.
The result was huge for the Azkals as they earned a point and kept their hopes of advancing to the next round alive. North Korea (3-0-1) is still on top of Group H with 10 points while the Filipinos (2-1-1) are still hanging at third in Group H with seven points.
“If we lose this game North Korea will have 12 points and we have six points, we will not catch them,” Dooley said. “We have to collect points wherever we can to survive.
“To survive with that kind of stadium, it speaks of the character of the team. We are still in business.”