Preview MD3 - Group B: Saudi Arabia vs Syria
Bangkok: Syria head coach Ayman Hakeem has called on his players to finish their AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020 Group B campaign with a victory when they face Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
Hakeem’s charges currently top the standings after drawing with Qatar on Matchday One and then recording an impressive win over Japan last time out.
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Despite being within a point of qualifying for the last eight, Hakeem is refusing to adopt a cautious approach against the Saudis, insisting instead that Syria have every intention of going for the win as they seek Continental glory and a place at this year’s Olympics.
“We always approach a match wanting to win so we do not want to go into the match against Saudi Arabia in a relaxed mood thinking we only need a point to qualify,” declared the Damascus native.
“We want to end the group stage with a good result so, because of this, we will concentrate from the first minute until the last. We promised the people of Syria that we would not just be participating in this tournament, and that we wanted to win and qualify for the quarter-finals.
“Our absolute intention is to progress beyond the group stage and hopefully qualify for Tokyo 2020.”
Although striker Ala’a Aldin Dali is pushing for a start after coming off the bench to score against both Japan and Qatar, Hakeem remains adamant that he will choose a team which best suits Syria’s needs for what promises to be an intriguing encounter with Saudi Arabia.
“As I have said before, each match has its own strategy as regards to who starts and who does not,” he said. “I must have good substitutes in reserve. For the match versus Saudi Arabia there is a chance that we will play our strongest team from the beginning of the game.”
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, head into the match knowing that a win would guarantee their place in the next round.
After beating Japan in their tournament opener, the Saudis – who were runners-up in the competition’s first edition – drew 0-0 with Qatar on Matchday Two to leave head coach Saad Alshehri pondering his options and eyeing an improvement in his side’s final group stage fixture.
“I think we have a good enough and deep enough squad to cope with the number of matches that we are playing,” he said. “We believe we have a great chance to reach the next round. All the teams in this group are strong and all we need to do against Syria is improve certain aspects of our game.
“Hopefully the next match will see an improvement. With one [group stage] game to play we still have everything to play for.”
Thailand vs Iraq
Venue: Rajamangala Stadium (Bangkok)
Kick-off: 20:15 (UTC +7)
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