YANGON (4 Oct 2012) – Timor Leste are looking for respect when they take on Cambodia in the opening match of the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers tomorrow at the Youth Training Centre in Thuwunna while for Myanmar, the several injuries have put them in a spot when they face Brunei later the same evening.
The Timorese, who have never qualified for ASEAN’s biggest football extravaganza, have been hard at work over the past two months and where after a strong showing at the SEA Games last year will be looking to improve further.
“Yes, we have never done well at this tournament,” said Emerson Alcantara, the chief coach of Timor Leste. “So that is why we have been hard at work trying to put together a strong team capable of competing against the best in the region.
“Other than wanting to qualify for the first time, we are also looking to put up a credible performance where hopefully by the end of the qualifiers, we would have gained the respect of the other teams from ASEAN.”
While respect will be the main motivator for a Timorese side who had also never won a single game in three qualifying rounds (2007, 2008 and 2010), for Cambodia, they will be out to show that they are still a competitive side.
In three qualifiers of the AFF Suzuki Cup, the Cambodians had only made the passage to the final round in 2008 when they were the hosts.
“We spent a lot of time sifting through players (during the Metfone Cambodia League),” said Hok Sochetra, the chief coach of Cambodia who was also at one time the best striker in the country.
“All of us are here for the same reason and that is to qualify for the next round. We played several games in Phnom Penh and then we went to Malaysia for training. We played in Singapore and also in Kuala Lumpur, so I hope that we have done enough to whip up a strong squad.”
On the other hand, the injuries to several players and in particular to strikers Kyaw Ko Ko and Kyi Lin have put further strain on a Myanmar side who did not win a single game during their recent tour of Japan.
Park Sung Hwa, the chief coach of Myanmar, will have to shoulder a heavy responsibility in guiding the home team who are playing in the qualifiers for the first time. Myanmar’s inconsistent showing over the past few editions of the AFF Suzuki Cup and coupled with the rise in performance of the Philippines at the last meet saw their ranking points being reduced.
“We did not have a lot of time together and while we learn things in Japan, it also resulted in some of the players getting injured,” said Sung Hwa.
“So with only (Kaung) Si Thu as the only available striker, we have had to make the midfielders play a more offensive role.”
For Kwon Oh Son, the chief coach of Brunei, his friendship with Sung Hwa will have to be forgotten tomorrow – at least for the 90 minutes when the two sides clash in the evening tie.
Both Oh Son and Sung Hwa had played together in South Korea previously.
“As a team-mate he was always very kind and he taught me a lot,” said Oh Son. “But I realised that tomorrow will be different. We have our mission and as professionals, we have to fulfil them.
“I hope that we can get good achievements and that both Brunei and Myanmar will make the cut.”
In the meantime, Laos are keeping much of their opinion to themselves as having a rest day tomorrow meant that they will have the advantage of assessing their four opponents from the two matches tomorrow.
However Kokichi Kimura, the chief coach of Laos, added that while they will have a rest day, having to play four games in seven days will be quite a stretch.
“It will be tough but I think that we are not the only ones having to face it,” added Kimura. “It will be an advantage for sure but it is also important that we plan properly for the games ahead.”
For the record, Laos are the only team to have consistently qualified for the biennial championship since 2007.
AFF SUZUKI CUP 2012
– Brunei, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Timor Leste