Thailand coach Alexandre Polking considered the War Elephants lucky with the current situation involving the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil here, ahead of the 2022 ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Cup first leg semi-final against Malaysia tomorrow night.
Polking said his team was happy because the situation will see a reduction in the ‘voices’ of more than 20,000 spectators, which can make an impact on the clash.
“Today is just about seeing the pitch, not much training. We have to be mentally strong for the very tough game with a crowded stadium, (but) I guess we are a little bit lucky with the scheduled concert that will reduce the number of spectators by 20,000.
“We are happy for that but we know that still (tomorrow) will be a very difficult and tough match,” said the 46-year-old Brazilian-German coach during a pre-match press conference here.
Last Wednesday, the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) confirmed that 21,000 seats at the National Stadium had to be “vacated” as they would be obstructed by the stage structure for the renowned Taiwanese singer Jay Chou’s concert slated for Jan 15.
At the same time, Polking said Malaysian players are really good fighters and it has been proven that whoever is playing can definitely give great resistance and a difficult match to the opponent.
He said that Thailand and Malaysia also had the same situation when they had to play without their main players in the AFF Cup, but still felt that both teams had the quality to emerge as champions.
“We have to embrace the players that are here with us and I believe Kim (Malaysian head coach Kim Pan Gon) is doing the same as me, I believe that both of us still have enough quality to win the tournament with that squad that we brought here.
“I expect the same games as we face in the last couple of years, always very tough, always in detail, always very competitive. It’s the two teams that I like to see the fight, so we are ready and I hope that in the end, we can get important results here tomorrow to bring home,” he said.
Meanwhile, Thailand’s defender Sasalak Haiprakhon said the team is ready to go for an important three points tomorrow despite having to encounter such a powerful crowd here.
“It will be a tough game tomorrow, Malaysia has great fans and it will be a full stadium with a great atmosphere but as the coach said we had a good rest, a good recovery day and everyone is confident and ready for the tough game tomorrow.
“Malaysia is a good team, full of good fighters and it’s never easy to come here and perform well but we are confident this time that tomorrow everybody is focused and we are ready to have a good performance and get that important results back home,” said the 26-year-old player.
For the record, Malaysia edged Thailand on away goals after drawing 0-0 in Bukit Jalil and 2-2 in Bangkok in the semi-finals of the 2018 edition before going on to lose 3-2 on aggregate to Vietnam in the final.
After the first leg of the semi-final at Bukit Jalil, the Harimau Malaya will leave for Bangkok for the return leg clash at the Thammasat Stadium on Tuesday (Jan 10).