BANGKOK (Jan 27, 2002) – The chances of Malaysia making the semifinals are rather dim. They face Thailand, the tournament favourites, in the last Group A encounter tomorrow evening.
The Thais have already booked a place in the next round but Malaysia have only themselves to blame after the 1-0 defeat to Singapore.
“We are not going to loose hope but we have to be realistic. Our chances are very slim,” Malaysian coach Jorvan Vieira said.
Vieira, a Brazilian, is being very honest. Malaysia and Myanmar have the same number of points but Malaysia has a weaker goal difference.
And Myanmar’s final group match is against Indonesia, whom they should beat.
“Our only chance is to beat Thailand and hope Indonesia holds Myanmar to a draw,” said Vieira.
Beating Thailand looks very remote. Malaysia does not have the mental strength nor the creative attitude up front to make this happen.
Except for a shaky defence, the Thai midfield and attack is very consistent.
They have technically sound players in Datsakorn Thonglao, Kittipol Papunga and Ekaphan Inthasen and if they decide to play Panai Kogpraphan instead of their ‘star’ Teeratep Winothai, Malaysia can expect a harrowing time.
“I’ll rearrange our midfield for more consistency and hope to destroy the Thai distribution network,” Vieira added.
Vieira hopes the return of Mohamad Salim Zulkifli, will bolster the Malaysian defence. Salim was not able to play Myanmar as he was serving a one match suspension for the two yellow card offences.
Thailand on the other hand, will be wise not to field Teeratep as he does not seem to gel with the attack.