Thailand’s Zico challenges Philippines to fight for Suzuki Cup semi-final spot

Thailand coach Kiatisuk Senamuang has issued a challenge to Philippines ahead of their 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup clash on Friday: join us in the semi-finals – if you can. 

The Philippines have never defeated the defending champions in the biennial tournament but have to do just that if they are to be sure of finishing second in Group A behind Thailand, who have already sealed top spot with wins over Indonesia and Singapore.

“If the Philippines want to come with us to the semi-finals, then they have to beat us,” the coach known as 'Zico' told opposite number Thomas Dooley ahead of the game at the Philippines Sports Arena.

If the Philippines want to come with us to the semi-finals, then they have to beat us

- Zico

With Thailand safely in the last four, the coach plans to ring the changes against the Azkals but insists that the only target is victory.

“We will change some players,” said Kiatisuk. “We have 23 players in our team and they are all strong and have quality. Also, our FIFA ranking can be affected in this game — we want to keep our standards. Our goal is three points.”

Victory ensures a fourth successive semi-final appearance for the Philippines, who have drawn with Indonesia and Singapore to sit second in the group.

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Thailand have beaten every foe they faced so far

Coach Dooley hopes that the Thais will not be quite as focused as usual.

“When you are in the next round already and maybe you are a little tired,” said the former United States international. “Maybe you don't play 100%, maybe you play 90%.

“Maybe some players have a little downtime and maybe some players have a little down time and can make mistakes that they don't usually make.

“We hope that there will be some of those situations to make a profit from.”

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Younghusband will hope to skipper Philippines to a win. Photo: PFF

Dooley, who led the Philippines to the last four in 2014, is excited about the clash.

“These are the games that, as players and coaches, we look to,” he said. “Thailand is a team we look up to. It is a team that wins championships, with an incredible league and many fans. It will be a challenge for us.”

A draw should be enough for the Philippines if Indonesia and Singapore play out the same result but the former Bundesliga champion is focusing only on victory.

“Our goal is to get to the next level and that is going to the final and to do that we have to win the game.”