Bacolod: Philippines midfielder Kevin Ingreso believes their shorthanded side has enough quality to overcome a formidable Vietnamese team when the two teams meet in the AFF Suzuki Cup semifinals beginning with the first leg on Sunday night at Panaad Stadium.
The Azkals’ 23-man side has been reduced to 18 for the remainder of the competition after four players - Neil Etheridge, Stephan Palla, Daisuke Sato and Patrick Strauss - returned to their clubs. Luke Woodland was earlier ruled out of the competition due to an injury he suffered in the 1-0 win over Singapore.
Ingreso who started in the 3-2 win against Timor Leste and came off the bench in the draw against Indonesia last Sunday thinks the Azkals’ depth in the squad remains as one of its strengths.
“Obviously some players had to return to their clubs, but we have a big squad,” said Ingreso, who plays club football for Bacolod-based side Ceres-Negros. “I think its about time for the other players to get the job done. We just need everybody to step up.”
The Germany-born midfielder insists the Azkals have sufficient preparation against the Vietnamese side that scored eight goals and has not conceded so far in the competition. He stressed the importance of getting a result in the first leg at Panaad Stadium.
“We’re prepared for what’s coming from Vietnam,” he said, noting the staff led by coach Sven Goran Eriksson has done its homework in setting up the team. “We’ve seen many video clips of them. I think we need a good result in the first leg especially at home.”
Both teams will face off in the second leg four days later in Hanoi, where the Azkals recorded one of the biggest upsets in the history of the competition eight years ago. Ingreso is confident he can cope with the pressure as the Azkals try to finally nail a finals spot for the first time in the Suzuki Cup.
"I will not change anything from my game,” Ingreso said. "I know I can play. Our team has played in so many matches together and we haven’t lost for quite some time. We always encourage each to do our best on the field."