The Philippine Azkals brace for a dogfight with highly touted Thailand, a side they haven’t been able to overcome in their last 14 meetings, in the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup 2014’s two-leg semifinal on Saturday at Rizal Memorial Stadium and next Wednesday over in Bangkok.
“It’s a must-win for us. We have two games and we’ll do everything we can to make it (to the finals). I believe in my players that they can do it. I think we haven’t won against Thailand in 14 games and we wanna change that,” said Azkals coach Thomas Dooley.
The Pinoy booters finished runner-up in Group A after a 1-3 loss to host and group winner Vietnam, thus drawing the ruler of Group B. The heavily favored Thais drubbed Myanmar Saturday night, 2-0, to post a clean sheet and complete their domination in the Singapore group.
The War Elephants and the Azkals battled it out in a friendly prior to the Suzuki Cup last Nov. 8 in Nakhon Ratchasima with the former overwhelming a weary Filipino side, 3-0.
“We’ll be facing one of the strongest teams but there’s no reason we can’t go out there against Thailand and get a good result in Manila and in Bangkok as well,” said veteran defender Rob Gier.
For the Azkals skipper, the duel with the Thais is not “Mission: Impossible” and it’s a matter of Phl XI again unleashing its best game as it did in a 4-0 thrashing of Indonesia in the group stages.
“I thoroughly believe in this team. If we can put together a performance like we did against Indonesia, we could beat anyone in this tournament,” said Gier.
Their long-running dominance against Phl notwithstanding, Thailand coach Kiatusuk Senamuang said he doesn’t expect a breeze.
“When we go to Manila, it’s not going to be easy for us,” said Kiatusuk, who as a player won the tournament three times. “We know the Philippines. They have very good skill and technique. But we know how to play against them.”
Source : Olmin Leyba, The Philippine Star