JAKARTA (15 Dec 2010) – A few thousand kilometres away, Malaysia and Vietnam were counting down the hours before they kick-off the first leg semifinal tie of this year’s AFF Suzuki Cup today. At the same time across the South China Sea, coaches from Indonesia and Philippines were speaking to the media as part of their final countdown to the other semifinal tie at the Gelora Bung Karno here tomorrow.
“We never set out to win a match, we always aim to bring our best to the field and that’s what we will do again tomorrow. We have a great amount of respect for Indonesia, they have a strong team of full professionals and we’ve made it harder for ourselves by playing the first leg here,” said Simon McMenemy, head coach of Australia told a packed room of reporters today.
To add to the pressure, local officials have said that tickets for tomorrow’s game had been soldout and 88,000 passionate fans will be on hand to support their “timnas” (short for tim nasional). Among the fans will be the country’s number one fan, Bapak President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose presence is expected to provide a major boost to the Indonesian players.
“Only two of our players are full professionals, and many of them have never played in front of 88,000 fans.” The coach added that the match would be live back home and that means a whole lot more of fans will be following the proceedings on TV.
“The reality is we have to be respectful of Indonesia, we are the underdogs here. I wish I could be Wenger and come up with some strategy to beat them. But like I said, we must bring our best to the field and hold our composure. They will try and break us down.”
However, McMenemy said that his team had prevailed when faced with an enormous horde of passionate fans. “We faced hostile fans in Vietnam and it worked to our advantage. The boys rose to the occasion. We will try hard again and give 110percent.”
“Sometimes when you step into a cauldron, amazing things can happen.”
McMenemy certainly has his hands full trying to sort things out ahead of tomorrow evening’s giant clash. He has to get his boys to set aside the disappointment of not being able to play at home.
“It would have been the biggest game in Philippines’ history. So, yes, it was a big disappointment. It would have been fantastic to bring a team like Indonesia to the Philippines. Still, we will give our best tomorrow and hope to make it memorable. We will be prepared.”