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PH faces Herculean task

Games Today
(Philippine Sports Stadium, Bocaue)
8 p.m. – Philippines vs Thailand
(Rizal Memorial Stadium)
8 p.m. – Indonesia vs Singapore

Philippine Azkals coach Thomas Dooley hopes to see his players perform their best game ever as they face defending champion Thailand for a spot in the AFF Suzuki Cup semifinals tonight at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan.

The Azkals need a shock win over the War Elephants in their 8 p.m. affair to progress in the last four of Southeast Asia’s biggest football competition, or otherwise see their bid end in disappointing fashion on home soil.

But getting the maximum three points on the final day of Group A will be easier said than done as the Filipino booters have never beaten Thailand since 1972. They are also facing a strong side that is favored to win the Suzuki Cup for the second straight time.

“I think that’s motivation enough,” Dooley said during yesterday’s pre-match press conference at the Marco Polo Hotel in Ortigas.

“We haven’t won a game against Thailand for a long time, but sometimes in football anything can happen. Sometimes you play a team that is already in the next round, they can loosen up a little bit and not playing that concentrated anymore, they it can be an easy game.

“We have to prepare 100% and hope we don’t make a few more mistakes against Thailand, because they already have first place (in the group) and have nothing to play for,” he added.

Thailand is already assured of the semis and the top spot in Group A following a 4-2 win over Indonesia and a scary 1-0 triumph over Singapore.

Thailand coach Kiatisuk Senamuang vowed that his team will play for the maximum three points in order to gain momentum before the next phase of the competition.

A defeat may still send the Azkals in the semis, provided that Indonesia and Singapore, which plays simultenuosly at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, battled to a scoreless or a low-scoring draw. Should that occur, there will be a three-way tie for second with the group runner-up advancing through a complicated tiebreaker.

But the Azkals are determined to come away with the victory. They hope to see more goals, something that was lacking in the scoreless tie against Singapore, and an improved backline that had anxious moments in the 2-2 stalemate opposite Indonesia.