DEFENDER PANSA Hemviboon says the Thailand team will need mental strength to withstand the fearsome atmosphere generated by over 80,000 fans at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in the semi-final away leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup against Malaysia on Saturday.
The 28-year-old Buriram United player says the Thais will need to overcome a wall of noise and pressure inside Kuala Lumpur’s 87,000-seater stadium as they seek victory in a rematch of the 2014 final.
Thailand and Malaysia have met 13 times in the tournament’s history, the Kingdom winning seven matches, drawing three and losing three against the neighbours. However, all three of those defeats came at this venue.
“It gets even tougher from now on,” said Pansa, who hails from Chanthaburi. “Pressure from the home fans is the first thing we have to bear. We need high levels of concentration but I believe the team can pull it off,” added the defender, who has been called up by coach Milovan Rejavac for the first time since Fifa World Cup qualification games in June 2017.
Pansa says he is excited to be playing in front of the biggest crowd in his career but will try to turn the atmosphere into motivation to break the Thai jinx at the stadium.
“I’ve never played in front of crowd this big. But the more fans there are, the more entertaining the game we can bring to the pitch. If we can beat the home team, our fans there should accept us more. This is a challenge,” Pansa said.
Meanwhile midfielder Thitipan Puangchan is hoping to recover from an ankle injury in time for Saturday’s game.
The 25-year-old vice captain was left with a swollen ankle after the game with Singapore on Sunday, which means he’s doubtful for the semi-final first leg.
“The injury is not serious. I will try to take a good care of myself and be fit in time for Saturday,” said Thitipan.
Thailand have not lost a game on their way to the semi-finals, beating Timor Leste 7-0, Indonesia 4-2, holding the Philippines 1-1, before crushing Singapore 4-0 to finish top of B Group. The team will fly to Kuala Lumpur this afternoon and will have a day’s preparation before Saturday’s game, which will be televised live from 7pm on Channel 7. The second leg will take place in Bangkok on December 5.