The Philippine Azkals are all set to face Singapore Lions in their quest for the finals slot in the on-going 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup tournament Saturday night at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila.
The Azkals are playing for the first time as a semi finalist in their home turf after beating Vietnam and Myanmar in the elimination round of the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup competition.
The Philippine football team aims to duplicate the morale-boosting win over the highly-rated Singapore Lions in Cebu City last November 16. The Azkals have twice beaten the Lions in a series of friendly games leading up to the official start of the AFF Suzuki Cup Bangkok, Thailand last Nov. 24.
The Lions is a 3-time AFF Suzuki Cup winner while the Azkals have yet to win in the prestigious Southeast Asian football tournament.
The Singapore team is fresh from its impressive 3-0 victory over Malaysia and their suspenseful win over Laos in the qualifying rounds but they had to live with their first loss to Indonesia 1-0 last November 28.
Singapore national coach Radojko Avramovic appears confident of winning over the Azkals, saying they do not intend to leave Manila without a win.
“It’s in our hands to let them (the Philippines) wait another two years to dream,” Avramovic said (via affsuzukicup.com ) at the pre-match press conference. “It’s good we are in the semi-finals but our target is reaching the finals.”
The Singapore Lions coach also said, it would be wrong for the Philippines to underestimate the Lions.
“Singapore are two-time winners of this competition (under my watch) and not an ‘itsy-bitsy’ team,” added the 63-year-old Serbian, who took over the helm of the Lions in 2003 and steered them to titles in 2004 and 2007. Singapore also won the Asean crown in 1998.
In response to the Lions' coach statement, Philippine team manager Dan Palami said the Azkals were in charge of their own destiny.
“Singapore has had a good run. And with full respect to Singapore, the Philippines intends to write their own history and we will have the result that we want,” he said. “We hope to get full points in this particular game.
“We know that Singapore are in familiar territory, they have been here several times already and certainly the Philippines will not be complacent in that quest, in that dream that has been elusive so far in (reaching the final).”
Reacting on Avramovic statement, Coach Michael Weiss said (via .inquirer.net), 'the Azkals are not just going to give away that opportunity for playing the title easily.'
“Why would I respect an opponent only because he has titles in the past? For what?” an apparently piqued Weiss said when sought for comment on Avramovic’s statement.
The Azkals are playing under Group A of the upcoming Suzuki Cup competition which is composed of Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar.
Singapore Lions are playing in Group B along with Malaysia, Indonesia and Laos.