BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
IT'S ABOUT a week to go until the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games football competition kicks off and the mind games have started.
"Brunei is not a strong team," declared Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) chairman Nguyen Trong Hy ahead of the team's Nov 11 clash at the Lebak Bulus Stadium south of Jakarta.
"The Filipino team is not well known ... East Timor is perhaps the weakest team.
"I think Vietnam and the Philippines or Myanmar will advance to the semifinals," Hy was quoted as saying on Thanh Nien a Vietnamese daily newspaper with a total readership of over 2 million per week on Friday, a day after the draw was held in Jakarta.
Runners-up in 2009, Vietnam take on the Philippines in next Thursday's curtain raiser.
The Sultanate starts its campaign next Saturday in what may look to be their easiest game on paper at least against Timor Leste, with the tie against Vietnam promising to be their toughest test of the Under-23 tournament.
Brunei face Laos on Nov 7, Myanmar on Nov 9 and the Philippines on Nov 15 with the semi-finals set for Nov 19.
This year's SEA Games marks the country's return to the football field in the biennial regional tournament after a break of 10 years they last saw action during the 2001 edition in Kuala Lumpur.
Despite reined back expectations, Brunei can thank its lucky stars it isn't in the aptly named 'group of death', where defending champs Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Cambodia square off in Group A.
Except for the opener against Timor Leste, which will be hosted at the 88,083 capacity Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta, Brunei play the rest of their games at the Lebak Bulus Stadium.
Vietnam are favourites to advance past the group stage but despite the disparaging comments, Hy didn't feel a slot in the semi-finals of the 26th Games is a surety.
"We dare not say that we can heave a sigh of relief ... but I feel it is a bit easier than I expected because Vietnam is in Group B while strong teams like defending champions Malaysia and arch-rivals Thailand are in Group A," he said.
"Also, we don't have to clash with hosts Indonesia in the group stage. Our group consists of six teams ... but the competition is not too strong for us. We know more or less about their strengths and weaknesses.
"We have clashed with them several times and we have come out the winners most of the time," boasted the chairman.
His confidence is understandable considering the team are coming into the competition after a moral-boosting 5-0 win over Myanmar in the opener of the Vietnamese Football Federation Cup in Hanoi on Wednesday.
The Philippines, whose public has taken an increased interest in the sport after the national team qualified for the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup last year, aren't taking anything for granted especially after sitting the 2009 SEA Games out.
"It seems that we are in favourable group but that is not a reason for us to be complacent. It's not a walk in the park, that's why we need to train harder," said manager Dan Palami.
"We have young and good players. It's a more decent lineup and stronger. So our target this time is a little modest which is just to make the semi-finals and finish at the podium."
Laos, who have former Vietnam national team coach Alfred Riedl in the hot seat, will also be ones to watch out for after advancing to the semi-finals of the last edition on home soil.
The Brunei team could not comment on this story.The Brunei Times
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