Singapore – Singapore coach Radojko Avramovic has described Thailand as a “top quality team” and the Serbian feels that controlling their star players could be the key factor when the two teams meet in the AFF Suzuki Cup final next week.
Thailand beat Malaysia 2-0 on Thursday at the Supachalasai Stadium in Bangkok for a 3-1 aggregate a victory which ended the reign of the defending champions and set up a rematch of the 2007 final when Singapore prevailed 3-2 on aggregate, thanks to Khairul Amri’s late winner.
Both teams have won the competition three times and Avramovic, who masterminded the Lions’ triumphs in 2004 and 2007, is expecting another tight battle against the tournament’s only remaining unbeaten side.
“By winning all their group matches and putting in two great performances against Malaysia to get into the finals, Thailand has proven to be a top quality team throughout the tournament,” said Avramovic after watching Thursday’s match in Bangkok on television.
“They have very skilful and proven quality players like Teerasil Dangda and Datsakorn Thonglao and we have to work really hard to restrict their influence on the game.
“We may have achieved our initial target of reaching the AFF Suzuki Cup final, but now that we are here, we will do our best for Singapore. However, Thailand is a very good team and it will not be easy against them.”
Singapore captain Shahril Ishak, one of eight survivors in the current Lions squad from the 2007 triumph, has a healthy respect for the Thais but the 28-year-old remains confident that his side can get the better of their opponents once again.
“Playing Thailand is always difficult. So far they are the only unbeaten side in the tournament and if we want to do well against them we need to really work together as a team,” said Shahril, who has netted four goals to lie second on the tournament's top scorers list, one behind Teerasil.
After the team received rousing support from the capacity crowd of 7,500 at the compact Jalan Besar Stadium in the second leg of the semi-finals, the Lions skipper is hoping that the backing of the home fans will continue in the first leg of the final on Wednesday, December 19.
“I really hope that our fans will continue to give us the tremendous support we received in the semi-finals. I felt great pride in seeing the entire stadium in red and we need the fans again as we cannot do this alone,” he said.
The second leg of the final will be played in Bangkok on Saturday, December 22.