Expectations are running sky-high with the five teams competing in the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifying round. Hosts Laos, Myanmar, Timor Leste, Brunei Darusalam and Cambodia are all hoping to be the two teams to advance to the final rounds of the prestigious AFF Suzuki Cup next month.
With only two slots available, the teams will be out to deliver nothing but their best to advance and appease their fans. The battle begins today at the National Sports Complex Stadium where Timor Leste will face Brunei in the opening game and Laos square-off with Cambodia in the second tie of the day.
The teams have had various training programmes coming into the qualifiers but while some may be better prepared than the others, their targets are the same and that is to make the cut.
Timor Leste coach Antonio Vieira, despite saying his team only had limited friendlies to prepare for this tournament, was quick to add that his team expects to go through.
“We have players playing in various countries (from Brazil and Portugal) and they are experienced enough to help us qualify. For us, things have not been very good in the run-up to the qualifiers as we do not have a lot of things including playing fields,” added Vieira.
“But in spite of all this, we are confident that we can make the cut to the next round.”
David Booth, the former Myanmar coach who is now handling Laos, says fans expected nothing less than success. They will open their campaign against close neighbour Cambodia.
“The first match is always important,” added Booth. “We have qualified for the last edition and there are of course expectations that we should do it again.”
Raddy Avramovic, the most successful coach in the history of the AFF Suzuki Cup who left the Lions to take up the head coach position in Myanmar, said his team is in the same situation as everyone else.
“We need to qualify and even though it will be tough to play four games in eight days, we just have to deliver what is expected,” said Raddy.
Brunei coach Stephen Kean said the team was built around the 17 players (from DPMM FC) who are playing in the Singapore League.
“They have been playing there for months which mean that they should be well attuned to one another,” said Keane. “We do not have a big pool of players but with the experience we have and also the fact that these players have been playing for long periods together, ensured that we can be competitive.”
Cambodian assistant coach Oung Kanyanith said that they are looking to win their opening game against the hosts.
“We have been preparing well and we have had some good results,” said Yanith. “So we are in a good frame of mind for the game tomorrow.”
TODAY’S FIXTURES – All matches at the National Sports Complex Stadium
1530hrs: Timor Leste vs Brunei DS
1830hrs: Laos vs Cambodia