Kuantan (10 September, 2013): National Under-23 coach Ong Kim Swee has warned his players not to underestimate Thailand in tomorrow’s 41st Merdeka Tournament showdown despite the Malaysians having already qualified for Saturday’s final at the Darul Makmur Stadium.
‘There is no room for complacency. We played well against Myanmar to win 2-1 though the score line could have been bigger. But I want the players to stay focussed against Thailand,” said Kim Swee at a pre-match press conference in Kuantan today.
He was accompanied by team captain Muhd Irfan Fazail, and striker Thamil Arasu who has been suspended for one match for picking two yellow cards.
“We know Thailand is a very good side and we have seen their performance against Myanmar and Singapore. Furthermore, they have two players who trained in Europe and look very impressive,” added Kim Swee.
Kim Swee was referring to midfielders Kasidech Wattayawong (No 9) and Seksit Srisai (No 14) who were on a six-month attachment with Athletico Madrid B team in Spain and returned home last month for the Merdeka Tournament and SEA Games in December.
He acknowledged that he is extremely impressed with the mental strength and commitment of the players who overcame all odds to score two goals against Myanmar on Monday night just when things did not seem to go right – missing numerous goal chances.
“It is a very positive sign in the team and this is good for us. I want them to carry this attitude against Thailand tomorrow. I also believe whoever we play in the final is not going to be easy. It is will a different ball game,” said Kim Swee.
“But if one takes a look at our statistics, it is obvious that we created some 20 odd chances but only manage to score one or two goals. It was a hard fought match and now that we are in the final, I will make several changes to the line-up for the match against Thailand. There are a lot of tired legs out there and they need a break,” he added.
Thamil Arasu has been suspended for one match and will miss tomorrow’s encounter against Thailand while midfielder Nazmi Faiz Mansor who suffered cramps in late stages against Myanmar is in doubt at the moment unless he recovers fast for the clash.
All that Thailand, with four points in the bag following the 1-0 victory over Singapore on Monday and 1-1 draw against Myanmar, will need is a draw against Malaysia tomorrow to advance to Saturday’s final.
However, lurking in their shadow will be Myanmar who is equally hoping to make the final despite having just one point to show from two matches. Myanmar will be out to scalp the Singaporeans at the Temerloh Stadium and in the process hope the Thais falter at Darul Makmur Stadium.
Thailand coach Kairung Threejagsang said he will parade his best line-up against Malaysia which will include both Kasidech and Seksit in the absence of team captain Mahamasabri Awaebuesa who has been suspended.
“Although a draw is good enough for us to qualify but we are looking at a win. It is always exciting and fun playing against Malaysia. They are a very united team with lots of resources,” said Kairung
Meanwhile Myanmar team manager Tin Myint Aung has put across to his players to look at a positive ending in their last preliminary round match against Singapore in Temerloh.
“The door is still open for us to qualify. We have not given up and will go all out against Singapore. But we are also waiting to know of the verdict in the suspension of the coach (V. Sundramoorthy),” said Myint Aung. “We are not sure if he will be on the bench. It makes a lot of difference,” he added.
Myanmar, for all the aggression shown in the last two matches, are now faced with injuries to players, especially midfielders David Htan and skipper Khaw Zayar Win and this is a concern to Myint Aung.
To make matters worse, the versatile Kyi Lin, who forms a lethal partnership with Zayar Win up front, is also suspended for one match.
“Their injuries are not serious and I hope they recover quickly. We need them in this most important match. There are others who will also get a chance to play for the first time,” added Myint Aung.
The Singaporeans, on the opposite end, and with all hopes evaporated after two defeats, aim to return home with pride intact. This could spell trouble for Myanmar.