By LERPONG AMSA-NGIAM
Five-time champions Thailand, despite having a superior record of seven wins from 13 encounters versus Malaysia in the tournament, have yet to beat the neighbouring country in an away game.
According to one report, more than 80,000 tickets have already been sold to fans wishing to cheer their players to another home victory.
The visiting Thai team will try to withstand the pressure of support for the home team and the electrifying atmosphere to win the game or at least pull off a draw going into the second leg of the semi-final in Bangkok on Wednesday.
“Every record is there to be broken. It’s very important that we play our own style and stick to the game plan for which we have trained,” Thai national coach Milovan Rajevac told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.
Of four Group stage matches, Thailand played only one away game, against the Philippines in Bacolod, and managed a 1-1. The other three games took place at the Rajamangala National Stadium and were all won by the home side.
“Playing an away game is never a problem for us. As long as we stick to our tactics, I believe we can go home with a good result,” added Rajevac, supervising the national team for the first time in the AFF Cup. In terms of the big turnout expected on Saturday, the Serbian coach viewed it as a valuable experience for his players.
“I hope to see a full house. There’s nothing to worry. A big crowd should make it more entertaining and become our motivation,” he added.
Malaysian team manager Tam Cheng Hoe has his own strategy for the match.
“It’s important we don’t concede a goal, which will be our motivation going to Bangkok,” said Hoe, a former national midfielder.
The 50-year-old coach also |said his side has to be aggressive against the Thai team but at the same time remain on guard for counterattacks.
“Sometimes when you play a big team you can’t just defend for 90 minutes. You have to attack but at the same time be aware of the attack of the opponents. My defenders have to be very focused and careful with the transition. When we attack, we tend to concede goals easily which is something we need to cut off,” Hoe said.
The match will be played at 7.45pm Bangkok time with Channel 7 beaming live the showdown. The other semi-final between Vietnam and Philippines is due tomorrow.