Brunei are bracing for their toughest test yet in this year's edition of the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy competition.
The hosts will take on Vietnam in their Group B match at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas tonight. "We are all aware of Vietnam's strength and they are one of the strongest team in the competition," said manager Hj Feisal Hj Eusoff when met during the national team training session at the Bolkiah Stadium of the Royal Brunei Police Forces (RBPF) Headquarters in Gadong yesterday.
"We do not want to talk about Vietnam right now as I want my players to concentrate on their training and all we need to do is to focus on ourselves," he said. Brunei defeated Singapore 3-1 on Wednesday and they currently sit third in the group with six points. The defending champions have scored six goals and let in three so far.
Abdul Azim Abdul Rashid bagged a brace in the match and Adi Said also found the net, his fourth goal of the tournament. "It is good to see that the players have gained confidence after the three matches and we see that we can rely on other players to score goals now," said Hj Feisal. "But Adi is always a very important player for us, and we need him to support the team and the other players.
"Centreback Reduan Hj Petara have been excellent for us at the back so far. One of the most experience players in the team, he is a very important figure for us," he said. Hj Feisal added that all the players are ready for the encounter tonight except for midfielder Mohd Hendra Azam Mohd Idris who is currently nursing back injury. "He is 50-50 now, we will see tomorrow (today) and we will decide if he is going to play," said the manager.
The race for the semi-final berth at the regional under-21 tournament has been blown wide open after Malaysia defeated Cambodia 1-0 at the Balapan Track and Field of the Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex on Wednesday. Vietnam also kept their chances of qualifying for the semi-finals alive after beating Indonesia 3-1 at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium.
Malaysia currently top the group with seven points. Vietnam are second with six points but boasting better goal difference than Brunei. Cambodia are fourth also with six points.
Indonesia and Singapore are in fifth and sixth respectively. Indonesia only have one point from three matches while Singapore have yet to record any points in the tournament. "The competition this year is very tough," said Hj Feisal.
"We have seen a country like Cambodia improve tremendously and Vietnam and Malaysia have always been the strongest," said the manager. "I am not ruling Indonesia out of the tournament just yet and Singapore were just unlucky but as we all can see the competition in the group is very tough. "The fans were fantastic when we played against Singapore on Wednesday. They were right behind us all the way and I hope that they can continue their support for the coming matches, we and the players need it," he added.
Brunei kicked off their campaign on Saturday with a 1-0 defeat to Cambodia. Chan Vathanaka scored the only goal to separate both sides at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium.
But Brunei would bounce back from the defeat on Monday by defeating Indonesia 3-1 with striker Adi bagging a hat-trick in the tournament.