BANGKOK — The Philippine Azkals may advance with a draw, but they are not about to take any chances as they gun for a win against Myanmar and a guaranteed semifinal spot in the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup on Friday at the Supachalasai National Stadium.
The Philippines has not won over Myanmar in 11 meetings dating back to 1971, but the last three of those matches have been drawn and a fourth consecutive stalemate would still give the Azkals a good chance of advancing to the last four from the four-team group.
The Azkals, however, are determined to get the semifinal spot outright in their final group match and avoid complications.
“The situation within the group is that every team still has a chance to go through,” Azkals coach Michael Weiss said during the pre-match press conference on Thursday. “So we should put ourselves in a winning mode and go for a win so that everything is safe and we don’t have to depend on the result of the other teams.”
Thailand secured the first berth following its second successive victory over Myanmar last Tuesday, the same night the Philippines revived its hopes with a 1-0 win over 2008 champion Vietnam.
The Thailand-Vietnam match will be played simultaneously at the Rajamangala Stadium.
If the Azkals advance, they face the top team from Group B, composed of defending champion Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Laos, in the semifinals.
“The victory over Vietnam put us in a good position,” said Weiss, who will be back at the helm after serving his suspension during the Vietnam match. He was sent off on Saturday for throwing a ball at an injured Thai player.
“It is in our own hands whether we proceed to the next round or not.”
And something has got to give in a battle between two counterattacking squads.
“Everybody knows that Myanmar is a very strong counterattacking side, well-disciplined with their two lines: at midfield and close to the goal, and they defend very, very well. But for tomorrow that will not help them,” Weiss said.
“They have to loosen up this strictly defensive mode and go for an offensive action. So it will be interesting to see how they can switch from their normal style of play,” added Weiss, who will be on the lookout for Myanmar’s top striker in Kyi Lin.
The Azkals are now without Filipino-Danish defensive midfielder Jerry Lucena, who has rejoined his professional club Esbjerg in Denmark, and veteran defender Ray Jonsson, who hurt his right quadriceps muscle in the Vietnam tiff.
“Time and again, we find ourselves in difficult situations, but true to the indomitable spirits of the Filipinos we find a way to crawl back,” Azkals team manager Dan Palami said.