Wednesday, September 18, 2019

War Elephants face all-or-nothing showdown

Nov 23. 2018
Milovan Rajevac 
Milovan Rajevac 
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By Lerpong Amsa-ngiam

The Nation

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Thailand are confident of beating Singapore in Bangkok on Sunday and thus qualifying top of Group B and guaranteeing themselves a favourable semi-final draw in the AFF Suzuki Cup.

The two-time defending champions, with wins over Timor Leste and Indonesia and a draw with the Philippines to date head into the weekend atop the group by goal difference from the Philippines who also have seven points from three matches.

Singapore, one point back in third, can only reach the semi-finals if they score a shock win in the Thai capital, a scenario that would send the five-time champions out of the tournament if Philippines avoid defeat against Indonesia on the same day.

In their eight Suzuki Cup games against Singapore, Thailand have won four times with two draws and two defeats. 

Recent history favours the Kingdom, however, with three victories since 2012.

Thailand have been widely criticised on social media about playing too defensively under coach Milovan Rajevac, a strategy some fans believe led to the Philippines’s late equaliser in Bacolod on Wednesday. 

However, the Serbian coach always made it clear a miserly defence was his highest priority ever since he took the job in 2016.

To get past Singapore and achieve the ultimate goal of retaining the crown, Rajevac admits his players must take some risks while at the same time never allow their guard to drop.

He said he had kept his eyes on Singapore’s games and he stressed his side must be fully focused at all times in Sunday’s showdown.

“Singapore were the better team against the Philippines but they were unlucky to lose a goal. Against Indonesia, they were obviously the better side. We have to be really focused against them,” said Rajevac.

The Serbian also mentioned Singaporean forwarders Faris Ramli, 26, and Ikhsan Fandi, 19, as two potential players who are capable of posing threats to the Thai team.

“Ramli and Fandi always create good scoring opportunities. But Singapore is strong overall, so there’s never a plan to mark any particular player,” he said.

The Thailand coach also regarded Singapore’s set pieces as one feature his players must be wary of.

“We have to be careful with their set pieces. In the game with Indonesia, we didn’t cope with corners very well. We are trying to improve in this area,” he added.

The Thai-Singapore game kicks off at the Rajamangala National Stadium at 7pm. Channel 7 HD will beam live coverage of the match. 

The top two teams from each group will proceed to the knock-out stage which starts on December 1.

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