Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Thais look for record fourth title in AFF Suzuki Cup

Thailand will be bidding for a record fourth AFF Suzuki Cup crown when they face Singapore in the two-legged final on Wednesday, December 19 at the Jalan Besar Stadium and three days later at Bangkok’s Supachalasai Stadium.

Traditional Asean football powerhouses, the Thais won the title in 1996, 2000 and 2002 but have since endured a decade-long drought deepened by losses to Singapore in the 2007 final and Vietnam the following year.

The Thais also exited the AFF Suzuki Cup at the group stage in 2004 and 2010, embarrassing flops for a team with huge potential.

Guided by the canny Winfried Schafer, Thailand have been hugely impressive in reaching their sixth final with wins over the Philippines (2-1), Myanmar (4-0) and Vietnam (3-1) in Group A action followed by a 3-1 (1-1, 2-0) aggregate victory over defending champions Malaysia in the semi-finals.

Their 12 goals included a hat-trick from the superb Teerasil Dangda in the win over Myanmar and the striker also scored in both legs of the semi-final to go top of the scoring charts.

The defence, well-marshalled by captain Panupong Wongsa, has looked rock solid and Datsakorn Thonglao was at his enterprising best in midfield against the titleholders.

Datsakorn and fellow midfielder Phichitphong will be looking for revenge in the showdown as both of them were in the team beaten 3-2 on aggregate by Singapore in the 2007 final.

Trailing 2-1 from the first leg, Mustafic Fahrudin scoring the winner for Singapore with a controversial late penalty, Thailand drew level at the Supachalasai Stadium in Bangkok with a strike from Pipat Thonkanya only for Khairul Amri to win the cup for the visitors with a late goal.

Previous appearances in AFF Suzuki Cup final, Thailand
1996: Thailand 1 Malaysia 0
2000: Thailand 4 Indonesia 1
2002: Indonesia 2 Thailand 2 (4-2 to Thailand on penalties)
2007: Singapore 2 Thailand 1, Thailand 1 Singapore 1 (Singapore won 3-2 on aggregate)
2008: Thailand 1 Vietnam 2, Vietnam 1 Thailand 1 (Vietnam won 3-2 on aggregate)

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