| VIENTIANE (21 Oct 2010) – On paper, hosts Laos and Cambodia appear to be the teams that will secure the two berths for the final rounds of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2010. However, the level of preparations and seriousness of teams like Timor Leste and the Philippines, may just lead to some stunning surprises when the qualifying competition kicks-off tomorrow here tomorrow.
Timor and the Philippines failed to qualify for the final rounds of this tournament two years ago but they have since progressed and developed into more capable sides. For the record, Laos and Cambodia were the top two teams in the 2008 qualifiers and went on to play in the final rounds.
Timor were the whipping boys of the region a few years ago, but that looks set to change this year. Change in Timor is evident with the success of their development programmes.
Their youth team surprised many when they qualified for the Asian Under-16 final rounds. The senior national team have been working hard and look ready for the rough ride ahead here.
“Our players today have a fair amount of experience in the bag, in fact, all of them here have played in Asean and Asian events. Our players have been in training hard for many months with an aim of doing well here. We hope to win,” said Francisco Jeronimo, team manager of Timor Leste.
The team that had captured the interest of the media and fans here is the Philippines. With a young head coach in Simon McMenemy and a team that’s well prepared for this event, the Philippines, who like Timor Leste used to end up on the receiving end of the stronger outfits in the region, could stage some pleasant surprises over the coming week.
“I have been in charge of this team for three months but this team has been preparing for the last 10 months for this event under the previous coach. We are very confident as I feel the team is more prepared for an event than ever before,” McMenemy said.
“Our first step here is working on beating Timor Leste. If we can put this into practice and get over Timor, then we will start preparing for Laos.”
Philippines have been strengthened by the presence of English Premier League’s Fulham’s second choice keeper Neil Etheridge. The team’s confidence level will certainly be raised with him between the posts.
Tomorrow will see Philippines taking on Timor Leste in the opening match of the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifying round competition at 1600hrs (Vientiane time). Hosts Laos will face rivals Cambodia in the second match at the same venue at 1800hrs.
Laos team manager Pasatxay Philaphandetvi, declared that the team was ready for the qualifiers. We have been training since August, most of it in Laos itself. As hosts we would like to have some good luck in the opening match.”
Cambodia, with their new South Korean coach Lee Tae Hoon, appear to be the least prepared of all the team here. According to team officials, the team has only been in training for 45 days.
“The coach has only been with us for the last 10 days in Cambodia. Prior to that our team trained in Vietnam for 30 days,” said the official.
Despite the lack of time to prepare, Cambodia possesses the experience and depth to give the others a tough time.
22 Oct: Timor Leste vs Philippines (1600hrs) / Laos vs Cambodia (1830hrs)
24 Oct: Cambodia vs Timor Leste (1600hrs) / Philippines vs Laos (1830hrs)
26 Oct: Philippines vs Cambodia (1600hrs) / Laos vs Timor Leste (1830hrs)