MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Football team faces its toughest test when it takes on defending champion Vietnam in the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup at the My Dinh National Stadium on Sunday.
The Filipinos will be the heavy underdogs when they face the host Vietnamese as the two sides collide at 8:30 p.m.
Vietnam crushed Myanmar, 7-1 last Thursday, when the Philippine Football team and Singapore was in a 1-all draw.
While the draw against Singapore was pivotal, national team manager Dan Palami noted that the job of the Filipino booters was far from over.
“It will get a lot tougher from here,” said Palami, president of the Leyte Football Association and who was recently named a member of the Philippine Football Federation Board (PFFB).
“We should be done celebrating the Singapore draw and be focusing on Vietnam. We have our work cut out for us,” Palami said, referring to the standoff against the Lions, thanks to the late injury time goal of Filipino-British Chris Greatwich.
That goal by Greatwich, a US-based veteran midfielder who missed the Laos qualifiers and was a last-minute addition to the squad, put the Filipino booters on the same footing with the Singaporeans with a point each.
Philippines and Singapore are behind front running Vietnam, which had 3 points.
“Nobody is expecting us to make an impact here,” said Palami. “That’s been our motivation.”
While the odds are high in beating the hosts, Palami hopes that his charges will still be in the running for a spot in the semifinals when they take on Myanmar in their last outing in the Group B four-nation meet on Wednesday.
Assessing their previous match, Simon McMenemy, the Pinoy squad’s English coach, said they hope to improve on their counterattack in the outside chance of prevailing over Vietnam.
“Against Singapore, we counterattacked well without even a plan,” said McMenemy. “I think if we put a little more structure into it, we can create more goal scoring opportunities.”
At the pre-match press briefing in Hanoi, Vietnam coach Henrique Calisto showed he was wary of the Philippines threat.
"The Philippines are a strong team with a strong defense and we must be careful,” said Calisto, noting that the gulf in class between teams has narrowed significantly in this tournament.
"It's been a difficult time for former champions. Thailand drew 2-2 with Laos and Singapore drew with the Philippines and that shows there are no easy games. There are no weak teams,” he said.