Miura calls on Vietnam to pip Azkals to top spot

Vietnam coach Toshiya Miura has confirmed his side will be going all out to finish top of 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup Group A by beating Philippines on Friday evening.

Philippines became the first team to qualify for the semi-finals after picking up victories in their opening two games, but the second-placed Vietnamese are currently favourites to join them from Group A.

With a three-point lead and a seven-goal advantage over Indonesia, Vietnam can qualify for the last four even with a defeat unless they lose to the Azkals by a big margin, while Garuda are also able to claim an emphatic victory in their game against Laos.

The runners-up of the group are likely to play tournament favourites Thailand, who are in pole position to qualify for the semis as winners of Group B, while Singapore and Malaysia – and Myanmar, to a lesser extent – are battling it out for second spot.

Nonetheless, Miura insists it is not fear for the Thais, but home advantage in the second leg of the semi-finals, that is the reason behind his desire to finish top of Group A.

“I am not so interested about avoiding Thailand,” he said.

“It’s more because if we can finish first then we get to play the second leg at home in Hanoi, and that will be an advantage.

“First, we must remain 100 per cent focused because there is so pressure on us, but not so much on Philippines.”

The Japanese tactician, who had spent his entire career in his homeland prior to taking charge of Vietnam, also confirmed he would not be tempted to rest any key players ahead of the knockout round.

“I expect a good game and for us to win the game,” Miura added.

“In my opinion, I fielded the best 11 players in our first and second game.

“It is a big tournament so of course I want to bring the best players to qualify for the semi-finals.”

On the other hand, Philippines will be forced into making a couple of changes after centre-back Juan Luis Guirado and forward Patrick Reichelt both picked up injuries in Tuesday’s 4-0 win over Indonesia and had to be replaced.

While coach Thomas Dooley agreed with Miura that playing the second leg at home would be a plus, he did concede that he was tempted to give a number of key players a well-earned rest.

“Obviously, we would like to win the group stage so that we can have the advantage [of playing the second leg at home] in the semi-final,” he said. “But I would also like to rest a couple of the players.

“It is difficult – I will make a decision tomorrow [Friday] after speaking to a couple of the players about how they feel.

“I always like to start with the best team and right now that is what I am thinking of doing, but the final decision will be made tomorrow [Friday].”

Once regarded as minnows in Southeast Asia, Philippines are now preparing for a third consecutive appearance in the last four of the Suzuki Cup after progressing in 2010 and 2012, although they failed to advance further to the final on both occasions.

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