BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
VJERAN Simunic is banking on his players' spirit to see them through against Chiangrai United FC tonight.
Second in the Thai Premier League (TPL), Chiangrai are in town for a historical charity match against Brunei's only professional side where proceeds will be channelled to the Humanitarian Aid Fund for Flood Victims in Thailand and Cambodia.
While the Thais are using the game at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas to keep them motivated during a month's break in the TPL, DPMM FC have other things on their mind.
The club hasn't had a match this big since their 2-2 draw against Tampines Rovers FC on Sept 29, 2009 their last Singapore League (S-League) game before they were forced to pull out of the league due to FIFA's suspension on the Sultanate, which was lifted last May.
Though Chiangrai have come with a seven-import strong squad, Simunic's men were able to hold the visitors to a 0-0 draw in a low-key friendly at their base at the Jerudong Mini Stadium on Monday night.
It has given the Croatian a lot of cause for optimism.
"We will take to the field with big emotion and will show how we play football," declared the gutsy coach yesterday.
"We played against them last night (Monday) so we know they are strong. We are still in preparation for the S-League so we are not at the same level with them.
"But it was a very nice experience for us ... The local players do not often get chances to play foreign teams and imports like these," added Simunic of Chiangrai's six Brazilians and a Romanian.
The coach of the 2009 Singapore League Cup champions is expected to start with the same players as Monday's friendly, with Mohd Wardun Yussof once again the man with the gloves.
Wardun will have left-back Yusof Mohd Salleh, Brazilian centre-back Tales Ricarte dos Santos and right-back Shahrulrizal Hj Abd Rahman in front of him, with the midfield filled with Azwan Muhd Salleh on the left and Hj Muhd Subhi Abdilah Hj Bakir on the right.
Fan-favourite Ivan Jerkovic and vice-captain Rosmin Hj Mohd Kamis are expected to play in the centre of the park, with a three-man attack slotting the experienced Brazilian Rodrigo Gral in the middle and Ghanian Osman Basiru and Shahrazen Said on the left and right respectively.
It is the same line-up Simunic used on Monday and he has said he will stick to it tonight a move aimed at giving him a better understanding of how his first-11 can play when the S-League kicks off on Feb 9.
The club's talismanic captain and rock in defence Pg Sallehuddin Pg Hj Damit is still recovering from injury, as is left-winger Sairol Hj Sahri.
Simunic's counterpart, Stefano Cugurra Teco, is also counting on an electrifying atmosphere at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium to spur his players on though readily admitted DPMM FC have more reason to be fired up.
"We had some chances on Monday night ... the tie was a normal result for us," said the Brazilian who won the Coppa Italia (Italian Cup) in 1984 and 1986 with AS Roma and again in 1988, 1989 and 1991 with Sampdoria.
"But with the crowd and the atmosphere at the national stadium, I am sure we will get a better performance from both teams.
"I know DPMM FC have not played for a long time so they will be full of motivation.
"This is a very good chance for us to prepare for our last league game on Jan 28 against (TPL champions) Buriram PEA FC, and I hope we will get a good response from the Thai public in Brunei.
"DPMM FC are a good team with a lot of good players," added the 1991 Serie A champion with Sampdoria.
When pressed, the Brazilian said he was impressed with his compatriot dos Santos as well as Basiru, Rosmin and Shahrazen.
Tickets will be on sale at the venue starting from 9am today.
They can also be obtained from the DPMM FC office at Suite 1, Level 1, Halimatul Sa'adiah Building, Gadong (above Maybank Gadong).
The Brunei Times