(BERNAMA) Philippines' Under-23 football team coach, Marlon Maro, believes hosts Malaysia are the favourites to win the gold medal at the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur as they will enjoy home advantage.
Maro, 52, said that although Thailand were the defending champions, he felt that Datuk Ong Kim Swee's side were the team to watch, having shown a marked improvement.
"Thailand is a good team but I choose Malaysia as the favourite team to win the gold medal. If you go back, historically, Malaysia (have) had a good record as a host, reaching the final and winning the gold. Furthermore, they (Malaysia) have shown good performances and I have no doubt about that," he told reporters after the team's arrival at the KL International Airport on Friday (Aug 11).
Maro also stated that his side's target at the biennial Games was to at least qualify for the semi-finals.
He added that his players were now in a better state compared to the last edition in Singapore after playing a series of friendly matches in Japan and Cambodia.
"We all know that Philippines are in a strong group including Thailand and Vietnam, but we will take one game at a time. Our main objective this year is to be in the semi-finals and after that, we will see what's coming for us," Maro said.
The Philippines, who failed to advance to the knockout stage in 2015 have been drawn in Group B alongside Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Timor Leste.
They will open their campaign against Cambodia at the Selayang Stadium on Aug 15.