The Semi-Finals of the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup are upon us and there is no better way to start it with the match-up between the Philippines and Thailand. The Thai squad are coming in as heavy favorites with their unblemished record and a recent 3-0 friendly win against the Filipinos. The Azkals (a worldplay for Streetdogs) will be reprising their underdog role in Manila against the unbeaten Thais. Here are some of the ways the Azkals can pull of the biggest upset in the tournament.
1) Clip Thailand’s “Wings”
Elephants do not fly but for this high-flying War Elephants squad, their “wings” elevated them to favorable results in their competitive matches. From their opening goal against Singapore to their last minute strike against Malaysia, all goals were generated from the flanks including the cross that cost Singapore a late penalty. The final passes of Thailand do not necessarily come from their wingers but also from their strikers and center halves who drift wide when the opportunity arises. Daisuke Sato and Simone Rota will have their hands full for the first 90 minutes of this matchup but will be expected to matchup well.
2) Boss the Defensive midfield
The Azkals need to play like they did against Indonesia in order to make a difference. The 4-0 win looked like a wrestling match full of choke holds and quick surprises,which were attributed from the midfield. Manny Ott and Jerry Lucena should rekindle their form against Garuda as the Philippines squad will need a near perfect game from their in order to succeed.
3) Score First, then Double it
The best way to beat this young Thai Squad is to score against them first. Malaysia has done this but allowed the Thais to equalize hence the need to double the advantage. This will totally destroy the visiting teams confidence and will make them doubt themselves up to the 2nd leg. Patrick Reichelt will need to overcome his nervy first half performance against Indonesia in order to free up Phil Youngusband and have the Philippines attack from multiple fronts.
4) Defend like the Spartans
With the back four left alone with a big gap in the midfield, the Red Warriors were able to score twice from a distance and the Azkals never recovered. What is needed is a repeat pressing performance from the whole team which resulted to two wins in the group stages. Patrick Deyto should make up for his disappointing performance against Vietnam for them to get a good result before leaving for Thailand.
5) The Fans Should Show Up (Rain or Shine)
The Azkals need all the help they can get outside the pitch and making a hostile environment for the visitors is a must. The Philippine squad is sure to give an inspired performance when buoyed from the home crowd. Booing the visitors should be done for a full ninety and nothing should be given to chance.