MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines won't underestimate Myanmar, but it is more than ready for the game that it well knows will determine whether the team stays or goes.
In a pre-match press conference for the Philippines' game against Myanmar in the AFF Suzuki Cup, Azkals head coach Michael Weiss told the press in Bangkok, Thailand that they know Myanmar is tough, but expressed confidence in his squad's ability to emerge victorious.
"Everybody knows that Myanmar is a very strong counter side. They are very disciplined and they have two lines, midfield and defense," he said.
"We know the opponent very, very well, we've done our homework," he added. "I think so far, especially with the Vietnam game, we're getting in better rhythm now and we will know what to do."
Weiss was referring to the Philippines' win over the Southeast Asian powerhouse on Tuesday, November 27. Vietnam is ranked number one in the region.
The Philippines has one loss so far, after falling to Thailand, Saturday, November 24. The Azkals face off with Myanmar on Friday, November 30, their final game in the group stage. They a win in order to advance to the semi-finals. A loss to Myanmar will eliminate the Philippines from the tournament automatically.
After the Vietnam win, Weiss praised his defensive players, specifically the back four of Rob Gier, Juani Guirado, Ray Jonsson and Dennis Cagara.
Jonsson will be unable to play in the match against Myanmar due to an injury, but Weiss said he will call upon Carli de Murga to take Jonsson's place in the starting lineup.
"Carli is actually a starter for most of the period since I’m here," he said. "He will be more than excited for this game."
De Murga has yet to play in the tournament.
Weiss also expressed trust in his bench and substitutes, adding that his pool of players understand the system and can help lift the team, despite the departure of Danish-Filipino midfielder Jerry Lucena who had to return to Denmark after the Vietnam match.
"Anyone coming in now will run for his life and will help and support the team more than 100%," he said.
Eyes on Myanmar
Weiss, who was suspended from the Vietnam game after throwing a ball on a Thai player in the Philippines' first match, praised Myanmar's solid defense but said he expects Myanmar to play more offensively in their match since they also need a victory to advance.
"[They have been] defending very, very well. But for tomorrow that will not help them. They have to loosen up," he said.
"They have to go for offensive action more, so it will be interesting to see how they can switch from one side of play in tomorrow's game."
When asked whether Weiss plans to assign a man to specifically mark Myanmar midfielder Kyi Lin - who scored the penalty against Vietnam to give them a draw - Weiss said they would make sure not to give Lin the depth he needs for his runs.
"He's a very interesting and fast player. We scout him, we know his strengths," he said.
Weiss also dished out praise to the team ranked 4th in Southeast Asia, emphasizing that he does not underestimate the squad that made it to the tournament after it topped the qualifiying rounds.
"I've always liked the style of Myanmar. I find it interesting what they've achieved. They're always a serious contender," he said. - Rappler.com