ASC2018: Confidence running high with Thais, Malaysians

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Looking back through the records, Thailand and Malaysia have battled each other in the semi-finals stage of the AFF Suzuki Cup twice previously, in 2000 and again in 2012. On both occasions, Thailand had the better of their southern neighbours. Tomorrow, Malaysia have a chance to get it right in their third semi-final showdown with the Thais.

But aiming to be third time lucky will not be easy with a highly confident Thai team who are further motivated on the occasion of the Father’s Day celebrations which is the birthday of their beloved late King.  “After playing them in Bukit Jalil, we know they have a very strong offensive line-up, they have scored 14 goals in Rajamangala (Stadium),” admitted Tan Cheng Hoe, the Malaysian coach.

“I want the players to be mentally and physically prepared to play in Rajamangala. Above all, they need to always be alert when the Thais attack,” warned Cheng Hoe, adding that Thai strikers, Adisak Kraison and Sanrawat Dechmitr were dangerous. “There are also others who can pose a threat, overall they are a balanced team, we have to keep an eye out for all of them.”

Adisak has been impressive and is almost a sure bet for the top striker award with the eight goals that he has scored thus far. The Thai fans, who are on holiday tomorrow and will pack the 48,000 capacity stadium, will be counting on Adisak and his teammates to make it a memorable day for them.

To Thai coach Milovan Rajevac, the scenario will be the opposite at tomorrow’s match. “Malaysia had immense support in the first match, but we will have fantastic support from Thai fans tomorrow. For us, everything is as usual as we prepare for the match. We are confident. Tomorrow is a big day and we are raring to go.”

Rajevac, when asked if the Thai team would be going on the attack from the start, explained that it was never in their plans to adopt a defensive position in the first leg. “I want to repeat what I said at the earlier match, it was not our game plan to defend but Malaysia was very motivated and put us under a lot of pressure. They saw their chance and they tried, and unfortunately, for them, they failed to score, luckily for us of course. We will attack and win the game.”

Cheng Hoe also said that the team was motivated after the first leg. “After playing Thailand in Bukit Jalil, the players have shown confidence, I see this in training. I believe if we keep on playing the way we have, we can get a positive result and upset Thailand playing away.”

After the draw in the first leg, there is no other way but to for a win. But Thailand will have to guard against the away goal rule. While the Malaysians will miss the massive home support they had in the earlier games, the players have become accustomed to playing in front of massive crowds and that could work in their favour.

With five champions titles in the bag and with a 2-0 semifinal record against Malaysia in the history of this regional competition, the Thais will start favourites. The match kicks-off at 7pm. The second semi-final battle between Vietnam and the Philippines will take place in Hanoi on Thursday.

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