MANILA, Philippines - Singapore Lions coach Radojko “Raddy” Avramovic said his wards will be fully motivated come Saturday when they slug it out with the Azkals in the first leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup semifinals at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
The Lions had lost to the Azkals in two friendlies in the run-up to the Asean tilt, 0-2 in Singapore and 0-2 in Cebu, but this should be a different game altogether, especially after their performance in group stages.
Avramovic’s wards topped Group B with six points, stunning holders Malaysia, 3-0, and scoring three goals in the second half in a gritty come-from-behind 4-3 win over Laos to barge into the two-leg semis.
“If I need to specially motivate the boys to reach the final, then something is wrong,” Avramovic said in the AFF Suzuki Cup website.
“They have to be up for it and I think if we go through, we will most probably meet Thailand in the final,” he added said.
Thailand, which had clean slate to top Group A and tow the runners-up Azkals (six points on 2-0-1) into the semis, is set to tangle with Group B runners-up Malaysia in the other side of the Last-4.
Against the Azkals, Avramovic said they expect a physical game but felt they can match up well.
“The Philippines’ style of play is very physical but it will probably suit us more,” the Serbian said in a report on Espnstar.com.
“Their style of play is not a Southeast Asian style. It’s very physical and they have different types of movement going forward,” he added.
The Azkals, themselves, anticipate a tough battle against the three-time Asean champs.
“We should be wary of them. Singapore has always been a strong team with a lot of quality,” said team manager Dan Palami, citing the Lions’ fightback from a 0-2 deficit in the victory over Laos as a “testament of their strength.”
One thing going for the Azkals is the presence of a 12th man at Rizal.
“This is the first time we’ll play the Suzuki Cup in the country. We hope fans will support us some more and help us get through,” said Philippine Football Federation president Nonong Araneta.
The Azkals look to get a good result at home before they head over to the Lions’ den for the second leg on Dec. 12.
But even in Singapore, they expect a good-sized Pinoy crowd.
“There are lots of Filipinos in Singapore, they can watch the second match and make it feel like it’s still a home game. This is much better than the semis against Indonesia in 2010 when we played both legs in Indonesia and there were like 30 Filipinos against 70,000 Indonesians in our supposed home game,” said Araneta.