Bacolod: In a statement of just how seriously Philippines are approaching tomorrow's showdown with Vietnam, Azkals coach Sven-Goran Eriksson has called the semifinals of the AFF Suzuki Cup the ‘same level’ as playing at the World Cup.

Preparing to face one of the tournament heavyweights, Vietnam, at home tomorrow the vastly experienced coach was clearly impressed by a huge media turnout ahead of the clash in Bacolod and said he saw little difference between the regional showpiece and the global one.

“No two games are ever the same but the feeling certainly is whether you go to the semifinals or quarterfinals of a big tournament such as the World Cup or the European Championships.

“It’s a big tournament, there are a lot of people here and my feeling is the same as if at the World Cup.

“Tomorrow I will wake up and know that today is a big game and I’ll have all the same questions over whether or not I’ve done everything and given the players the necessary message so the feeling is absolutely the same.”

One thing that the Azkals will need to overcome is the absence of a string of key players with goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, defenders Daisuke Sato and Stephan Palla as well as midfielder John-Patrick Strauss all recalled by their respective club sides.

With injuries also impacting the team, Eriksson noted that the squad is down to just 18 available players.

“We know that we will meet a good team and it will be difficult because we only have 18 players but those 18 are all ready to play so let’s see what happens tomorrow.”

Vietnam had the luxury of arriving to Bacolod via a charter flight and that’s afforded them close to an extra day’s preparation as they brace for a challenge that coach park Hang-seo described as a stern one but one that holds no fear.

“First of all we’ve achieved our goal of finishing in first place in the group and now we are aiming for our second goal to reach the final.

“Philippines are different to the type of teams we met in the group stage and they’re physically strong but they use long passes when they attack.

“They have an international level coach and that’s an honour for me because I’ve watched him many times in other roles but we don’t have to be afraid of the Philippines because we’ve prepared well and are ready to do our best”