Midfield general Datsakorn Thonglao, a leading light in Asian football over the past decade, is just 180 minutes away from putting the seal on a great career with an AFF Suzuki Cup winner’s medal for Thailand.
Datsakorn, a combative and skilful player with an eye for a killer pass, has starred for Thailand in their eye-catching run to the two-legged final with Singapore.
He ran the midfield in the victories over the Philippines (2-1) and Myanmar (4-0) in Group A action before sitting out the 3-1 win over Vietnam due to the recurrence of a groin injury.
Refreshed and revitalised, he played both legs of the semi-final with Malaysia and impressed with his vision and ability to dictate the tempo of the game.
Not for the first time, coach Winfried Schafer highlighted his contribution in the 2-0 victory over the defending champions on Thursday that sealed Thailand’s place in the final and described as “brilliant” a defence-splitting pass from Datsakorn that freed striker Teerasil Dangda for a run towards goal.
Though still just 28, Datsakorn has played at the top level since 2000 and won his first cap for Thailand the following year.
But he was left out of Thailand’s winning squad at the 2002 Asean Football Championship and was also omitted from the so-called “Young Bloods” two years later when the Thais fell at the group stage.
He played in the 2007 and 2008 AFF Suzuki Cups when Thailand were beaten finalists and was also part of the team that failed to qualify for the knock-out stages two years ago, then Thailand coach Bryan Robson deploying him in what he called the “Paul Scholes role”.
“I have never been on the winning side in the AFF Suzuki Cup, it is a gap in my career. I want to put that right this year,” said Datsakorn, who featured in the side that lost to Singapore in the 2007 showdown.
“This will be my fourth AFF Suzuki Cup - I have played for the national side for more than 10 years and still have a strong desire to win.”
Early on in his career, Datsakorn had a spell on loan at Kaiserslautern in Germany and it was reported at the time that he turned down the chance of signing full time as he was homesick.
He returned to play for BEC Tero Sasana in Thailand, helping the side to the final of the inaugural AFC Champions League in 2003 where they lost to Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates.
Datsakorn also turned out for leading Vietnamese side Hoang Anh Gia Lai from 2007-2009 and captained Muang Thong United to the Thai Premier League title this season.
It was feared in some quarters that Datsakorn’s groin injury and tiredness from a tough season could have blunted his dynamism but there has been a youthful spring in his step as he has honed in on the AFF Suzuki Cup and the prized medal that has so far eluded him.
Thailand travel to Singapore for the first leg at the Jalan Besar Stadium on December 19 with the return leg at Bangkok’s Supachalasai Stadium on December 22.