JAKARTA: While disappointed that the Philippines will not be hosting a semi-final match in this year's AFF Suzuki Cup, coach Simon McMenemy feels that his side will have no problem finding their motivation in the hothouse atmosphere of the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium on Thursday.
Due to the lack of a suitable venue in the Philippines, the Azkals will have to play both legs of the last-four clash in the intimidating atmosphere of Jakarta.
"Finding out that we weren't going to play in front of a Filipino crowd for what is probably the biggest game in Philippine history was a real disappointment for those who have worked so hard to grow football in the Philippines," said McMenenmy, who was appointed as Philippines coach on a short-term contract four months ago.
"It would have been a fantastic achievement to bring a team like Indonesia to the islands of the Philippines for the semi-finals of such a prestigious competition. But things happens and the facilities just weren't good enough.
"But the one nice thing about playing in front of 80,000 away fans is that finding motivation is very straightforward. There's not much that I can say that stepping out on to the field and seeing 80,000 people won't do for the players."
For McMenemy, the key thing for his players will be to maintain their composure – something which they did successfully when they beat Vietnam 2-0 in Hanoi during the group stage.
"It will be down to keeping our composure given what we are about to face. If we can do that, we'll be in for a very good game," said the Englishman.
"Not many of our Filipino players have seen a crowd of 80,000 people, let alone played in front of them. It is difficult to prepare for that other than to stay totally focussed on the task at hand and to stay as composed under pressure as much as possible.
"As with Vietnam, we faced a very hostile crowd out there and a very expectant crowd. We were able to use that to our advantage and I think that the players rose to the occasion as well because they don't often get the chance to really show what they can do on that platform."
According to McMenemy, the public reaction in the Philippines to their country's newfound football success will also act as a spur to the players.
"Tomorrow, the nation will be watching it live at home on TV and it will be huge memory in the minds of our players. My team talk will be about making sure that memory lives long in the minds of those watching by putting out everything and leaving that on the field when the whistle blows.
"It's amazing about the amount of interest there is in Filipino football now. We are very lucky that our performances so far in have led to the interest in football in the Philippines growing massively. As a judge of that, our last training session before we left Manila was done in front 3,000 people which, to be honest, took our players by shock.
"But the reality is that we are now in a footballing nation and we are playing against a powerhouse in Southeast Asian football. We have to be very respectful of that and we know well that we are very much the underdogs in this tie.
"We try to bring everything we can out to the field and we give 110 per cent. And what we've been finding is that that passion, that fight and that spirit has been providing the results for us. So we will do exactly the same tomorrow and even given that it is possibly a much more harder scenario than we've had so far, we're hoping that our hard work, our passion and our spirit will shine through again."
Thursday, 16 December 2010