SEPANG—The Philippines and Myanmar Under-23 football teams have arrived with similar targets – to reach the semi-finals of the KL SEA Games.
Myanmar head coach Gerd Zeise believes his team can achieve the target based on their silver-medal finish at Singapore 2015, when they lost 3-0 to Thailand in the final.
“We must first clear the preliminary hurdles before thinking about the semi-finals. I’m confident my boys will be ready for the challenge,” Zeise told reporters after the team’s arrival at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) here Saturday.
The 64-year-old German, however, warned his men not to underestimate the other teams in Group A, including hosts Malaysia, Singapore, Laos and Brunei.
“Malaysia are certainly the favourites to reach the semi-finals as hosts,” said Zeise, who was previously in charge of Myanmar’s senior team.
Myanmar will kick off their campaign against Singapore at the Selayang Municipal Council Stadium on Monday.
The Philippines head coach, Marlon Maro, boldly predicted that Malaysia would win the gold medal.
Thailand are the favourites to retain the gold after winning the last two editions but Maro, 52, feels that Malaysia could nick it based on the improvement shown by Datuk Ong Kim Swee’s charges.
“Thailand are a good team, but I pick Malaysia as favourites for the gold medal. If you look back at history, Malaysia have a good record as hosts, having reached won gold in 1989 and silver in 2001,” said Maro.
He also said that his players were better prepared this time compared to Singapore 2015 as “we have played a series of friendlies in Japan and Cambodia”.
“We all know that we have two strong teams in our group – Thailand and Vietnam. So, we will take it one game at a time.
“Our main objective is to reach the semi-finals,” said Maro.
The Philippines, who failed to advance to the knockout stage in 2015, are in Group B with Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Timor Leste.
They will open their campaign against Cambodia at the Selayang Municipal Council Stadium on Aug 15.
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