Timor-Leste will be making their first appearance at the AFF Suzuki Cup since 2004 and their latest boy wonder Henrique Cruz is ready to prove he is good enough to ply his trade overseas.
O Sol Nascente qualified for the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup after getting past Brunei 3-2 on aggregate in the two-legged qualifier in September.
Henrique and his striker partner Rufino Walter Gama will be hoping to reprise their superb strike partnership when they kick start their Group B campaign against Thailand on Friday.
The Boavista forward has been part of the national team since 2015 when he was just 17 years of age and has gone on to score three goals in 19 games.
With their home matches played in Thailand instead of the Dili Municipal Stadium, which is deemed not “match ready”, the opener against the War Elephants on Friday will take extra significance for Henrique, who has dreams of playing in some of the top leagues across Southeast Asia, namely the Thai League.
“Thai football is the highest standard in this part of the world and I’m looking forward to playing against them,” Henrique told FOX Sports Asia.
“We will go out and play our own game but I would love to impress and maybe play in the Thai League someday. It will allow me to gain a new experience in my career and if I ever get that chance, I’ll use it well.”
Having netted a brace to help Timor Leste to a 3-1 win in the first leg of their AFF Suzuki Cup qualifier against Brunei, Henrique hopes his goalscoring form can continue at the main event, against the bigger teams in the competition.
“It is always a great honour to represent my country and this is the most important tournament in my career,” he said.
“We are not here just to participate. We want to do our best, try and grab some points and hopefully score some goals.
“If I can score a goal or two, that will be awesome but it will only be meaningful if my goal can help Timor-Leste win or draw. That is the objective.”
Timor-Leste are regarded as the minnows in Group B where they have to take on Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. Dubbed the ‘Group of Death’, it will be an incredible achievement if Henrique and his teammates can score a surprise or two.