07 December 2010

Work still to be done, says McMenemy

Hanoi: Philippines coach Simon McMenemy is hoping his side can continue to defy the odds when they face Myanmar in Nam Dinh on Wednesday evening as the aim for an unlikely place in the semifinals of the AFF Suzuki Cup.

Victory over Vietnam coupled with a draw against Singapore in their opening game has moved the Philippines to the heady heights of the top of Group B with just one match remaining.

That leaves McMenemey and his team needing just a point in their final game against a Myanmar side that has struggled for form to progress to the last four for the first time in the competition's history.

But while there has been a euphoric mood around the Philippine side since their win over the defending champions, McMenemy sounded a cautious note as the countdown to one of the country's biggest ever game began.

"There is an expectation for us to falter," said the Englishman. "We are not there yet.

"The breaks have gone our way and things will be different went the breaks don't go our way and we have to dig in and things get tough.

"We are going into each 45 minutes trying to do the best that we can. That's as much as I can ask from the players.

"We're not talking about qualifying or imagining we can make the semifinals but you don't get the chance very often to create history two games in a row. Now we have to get down to the business of reinforcing our position at the top of the table."

The win over Vietnam has received a rapturous reception in the Philippines, a country where football barely registers on the national agenda, such is the power and popularity of basketball, the country's number one sport.

"It's been very difficult not to smile and to try and stay grounded after a result like that," said McMenemy. "They don't happen very often.

"But as much as we are elated we know Myanmar put up a hard fight against Singapore and we are not looking any further than the next game. Talk of qualifying for the semifinals or hosting games doesn't interest us yet.

"Myanmar will cause us problems. They gave difficulties to Vietnam, they gave difficulties to Singapore and I'm sure they will make it very, very difficult.

"They have nothing to lose, so I'm not looking too far ahead, just at the next 45 minutes ahead of us and try and keep the momentum going.

"As long as we keep giving 100 percent then we give ourselves a chance to win. That's what happened against Vietnam, that's what happened against Singapore and that's what we will try to do against Myanmar."

While the focus has been on McMenemy's team in the build-up to the final round of group matches, Myanmar go into the game with only pride to play for after their late loss against Singapore in their most recent game deprived them of any chance of progressing.

But Myanmar coach Tin Myint Aung was determined his team would put up a fight right until the end of their involvement in the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup.

"We have no hope but we have to play until the end of the tournament," he said. "The Philippines team will be very difficult for us. As we saw in the last two games, they have really improved.

"We have to prepare very seriously. We have lost two games and our heads are going down and I have to motivate the players. It's been very difficult for Myanmar but we have to play until the end, especially for our country."


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