Kathmandu: Turkmenistan star Arslanmyrat Amanov has dispelled any notions that the Philippines will go into Friday's semi-final as the underdogs citing the Azkals impressive win over Central Asian neighbours Tajikistan.
Amanov, who put in a virtuoso display as Turkmenistan finished top of Group A with a 3-0 win over hosts Nepal, watched from the stands as the Philippines came from a goal down to defeat the inaugural AFC Challenge Cup winners 2-1 to qualify for the semi-finals for the first time in their history and the 21-year-old's assessment was that the best team won on the day
"I think the Philippines played much better than Tajikistan," Amanov told www.the-afc.com.
"You could see from the first minute that their players were hungrier. They wanted it more."
Amanov admitted that the Philippines' player that impressed him the most was Phil Younghusband, the tournament's joint leading scorer with three goals, while the performances of Phil's older brother James and match-winner Angel Guirado also caught the eye.
The latter two are suspended for Friday's final-four fixture and while Amanov thinks that the duo's absence is a bonus for his side, he stresses it is not a major factor in the way the Turkmen will approach the match.
"The Philippines number 10 (P. Younghusband) is a good player as are numbers 7 (J. Younghusband) and 12 (Guirado) so for us it is a plus that they cannot play," said the HTTU star, who was also crowned Turkmenistan's best midfielder last year.
"But we prepare to play teams and don't focus on one or two players. If you think about individuals and not the strategy to play against the team then you are not concentrating 100% and this could be costly."
Amanov is also not letting his attention stray to a possible final with DPR Korea and the chance to avenge Turkmenistan's penalty shootout defeat to the Chollima in the final of the 2010 AFC Challenge Cup.
"We are not thinking about playing DPR Korea or playing Palestine," he said.
"We are only thinking about winning our semi-final against the Philippines and then we will start preparations for the final.
"For me, both teams are strong, maybe stronger than us, but it is not important who we face in the final. We are here to win the Challenge Cup and will be ready for anyone."