| VIENTIANE (28 Oct 2010) – Three tough matches in three days for a total of 22 goals being scored spoke volume of the rise in standard of the so-referred second –tier competition of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2010.
The third qualifying competition for the biggest regional football championship has certainly gone a long way to prove that the Asean Football Federation (AFF) were correct in their assessment on the need of having a qualification event.
They were some good football being played for sure but in as far as standard was concerned, the four teams were still a tad off the mark against the big boys in the region. But how far way they are will be known soon enough in Hanoi and in Jakarta in just over a month.
With the absence of Brunei, four teams – hosts Laos, Cambodia, Philippines and Timor Leste – were left to their devices on how they can conjure the right manoeuvre to win the only two available places for the final round of the AFF Suzuki Cup.
And after seeing some close matches being played out, hosts Laos made it their third tournament on a trot while the Philippines clinched the other spot by the skin of their teeth for the second time after missing out on the 2008 edition.
With prodigal son Lamnao Singto a shade off colour and veteran Khampeng Sayavutthi unable to find his touch, Laos seem to have found inspirations in midfielder Soukaphone Vongchiengkham and also Kovanh Namthavixay.
Both were crucial members of the Laos Under-23 SEA Games squad and they have made the transition to the full senior side with relative ease even though they only played Cup competitions throughout the year.
“It was a great team effort and even though there were some patches here and there which will need work before our first game in the final round, still I’m proud of my boys,” added David Booth, the chief coach of Laos.
“After the time out this week, we will start work in preparation for the final round. And there’s a lot of work to be done for sure.”
To be more to the point, Philippines should have qualified for the final round with relative – considering the number of foreign-based players they have in their stable.
With Neil Etheridge, the No. 2 keeper at Fulham, in goal and fortified by the likes of the Younghusbands and also Manuel Ott and Jason De Jong, the team should have realised that football is a team sport and that they should not have relied on just the sum of their individuality to bring them forward.
Discipline is the key word and while the team is better than they were two years ago, still they should have played a lot better and also win better results.
“We set out to qualify for the final round of the AFF Suzuki Cup ten months ago and we have done just that,” added Simon McMenemy, the chief coach of the Philippines.
“It does not really matter which group we are in, we just want to show that we deserved to be in the final round and we will do just that in Vietnam.”
And while Cambodia failed to make the cut this time round, they should be safe with the realisation that they did not lose a single match and that they finished the qualifiers with the same points as the first two teams.
“Yes, it is unfortunate that we did not qualify even though we did not lose a single game. But that’s football,” lamented Lee Tae Hon, the chief coach of Cambodia.
“The important thing now is to keep looking forward and work towards improving the team even further. The squad is young and they have plenty of time to make improvements.”
For Timor Leste, they showed that they can match the other teams – even though in patches. And it is rather obvious that their lack of fitness was weighing them down.
“We did not have as good a preparation as it was two years ago,” said Eduardo Parreira, the assistant coach of Timor Leste.
“Several of the players like captain Helder (Ricardo) who is already 34-years-old will retire at the end of this championship. So we will have to look at new blood to fill the vacuum.”
AFF SUZUKI CUP 2010, FINAL ROUND FIXTURES
Group A – Jakarta, Indonesia (GELORA BUNG KARNO STADIUM)
1 Dec Thailand vs Laos (1700hrs) / Indonesia vs Malaysia (1930hrs)
4 Dec Thailand vs Malaysia (1700hrs) / Laos vs Indonesia (1930hrs)
7 Dec Malaysia vs Laos (1700hrs at Jalak Harupat Stadium, Bandung) / Indonesia vs Thailand (1930hrs at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium)
Group B – Hanoi, Vietnam (MY DINH NATIONAL STADIUM)
2 Dec Singapore vs Philippines (1700hrs) / Vietnam vs Myanmar (1930hrs)
5 Dec Singapore vs Myanmar (1700hrs) / Philippines vs Vietnam (1930hrs)
8 Dec Myanmar vs Philippines (1700hrs at Hang Day Stadium) / Vietnam vs Singapore (1930hrs at My Dinh National Stadium)