Sunday, 9 December 2012

Teerasil hopes to gift-wrap title for Thai fans

Star striker Teerasil Dangda wants to present Thai fans with a special festive gift - the AFF Suzuki Cup.
“I want to win the title as a New Year present for Thais,” said Teerasil, who scored a hat-trick in the 4-0 victory over Myanmar in Group A.
Teerasil, joint top-scorer in the Thai Premier League with 24 goals for champions Muangthong United last season, will likely play as the sole striker against Malaysia in Sunday’s semi-final first leg with Thailand coach Winfried Schafer looking for at least an away goal.
"It will not be an easy game but I have told my players to try to score in Kuala Lumpur," said Schafer.
"The next two games will be very important and we must get through them. The team spirit is good - it has been good since I came here [last year]."
Thailand captain Panupong Wongsa said that the team would not be intimidated by the expected full-house crowd at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium.
“We are not afraid of anything,” said Panupong, who is looking to skipper Thailand to a record fourth Asean crown. “We are an experienced team and should be able to cope with the atmosphere and other conditions.”
On Thursday, the players signed a well-wishers' book for His Majesty the King of Thailand at Siriraj Hospital, a day after the revered monarch’s 85th birthday.
The return leg of the semi-final will be played at the Supachalasai Stadium in Bangkok on Thursday, December 13 with the winner taking on either Singapore or the Philippines in the home and away final.

Less pressure on Malaysia now: Subahan

Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia team manager Subahan Kamal believes that the heavy pressure has been lifted off his side after their win against Indonesia and that they will have little to lose when they face favourites Thailand in the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup.

The Harimau Malaya face a stiff test against the only team with an unbeaten record in this year’s tournament but Subahan insisted that the pressure that they will face in the first leg at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium on Sunday is nothing like what they felt before their must-win showdown against the Indonesians last weekend.

“I think that there was more pressure on us when we played during the group stage especially after we lost 3-0 to Singapore,” said the Malaysian manager. “There was amazing pressure when we played against Indonesia but the team did well and rose to the occasion and we can be happy that we reached the semi-finals.

“Now the situation is different because Thailand are the favourites and we are the underdogs but we have nothing to lose. The players can go out and play well and enjoy themselves and I am optimistic that we can get a good result to take to the second leg in Bangkok.”

Malaysia have not managed a victory against the Thais in the competition since 2004 when they won 2-1 at Bukit Jalil to send Thailand crashing out at the group stage for the first time. However, the Thais gained revenge with a 1-0 win in Bangkok in 2007 and a 3-0 victory in Phuket in 2008 before a goalless draw in Jakarta two years ago.

Subahan rates the current Thai side highly but he believes that they are by no means unbeatable.

“This match is like a final for us because Thailand are the best team in the tournament. But we are confident and I believe that if we play well, we can get a good result,” he said.

The Tigers will have a capacity crowd behind them at Bukit Jalil but Subahan warned his players that they cannot afford to lose their focus against the dangerous Thais.

“I’m happy that the team is in the semi-finals and that we will have a chance to play in front of 90,000 fans tomorrow but we must still play well and try to get a result for our fans,” said the manager.

“We cannot afford to be complacent and take the occasion lightly because otherwise playing in front of 90,000 fans can have the opposite effect if we do not perform well.” 

This is the right time for Thailand: Panupong

Kuala Lumpur – After a decade of frustration in the AFF Suzuki Cup, Panupong Wongsa believes that the time is right for Thailand to regain the title and their position as Asean football’s top side.

The Thais won three of the first four editions of the competition from 1996 to 2002, but since they beat Indonesia in a penalty shootout in Jakarta 10 years ago, they have failed to land the title again.

While they reached the finals in 2007 and 2008, they lost on each occasion to Singapore and Vietnam respectively. And two years ago, they failed to even reach the last four after a dismal campaign which saw them go winless in the group stage for the first time.

Centre-back Panupong was part of the squad that flopped in 2010 although their failure could be pinned to the team’s lack of preparation time with the Thai domestic football season ending just three days before their opening match of the tournament in Indonesia.

“It had an effect on the team,” said Panupong to “The players had just finished a long, hard season and we had only two or three days after the season before the start of the tournament.

“It was not good for the team – we had no time to prepare or gel together.”

Fortunately for Thai football, that issue was addressed this year when the league wrapped up in early November which gave coach Winfried Schaefer plenty of time to prepare his players for South-East Asia’s biggest football tournament.

They were able to fit in warm-up matches against Malaysia, Bhutan and Bangladesh, which all ended in victories that helped to boost the squad in their build-up to the AFF Suzuki Cup. And they maintained their momentum with victories against the Philippines, Myanmar and Vietnam during the group stage that stretched their winning run in international matches to seven games.

“Our preparations for this year’s tournament have been the best for many years,” said Panupong, whose side face Malaysia in the semi-finals, with the first leg in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.

“We have been together for several weeks and we were winning our friendlies as well so the morale and the confidence of the team is building. The staff and the players are also familiar with each other and we are working and improving as a team all the time.

“It has been too long and now is the right time for us to bring the AFF Suzuki Cup trophy back to Thailand as champions.

“Now the league in Thailand is doing well, the fans are coming out and football in Thailand is going in the right direction. Winning this tournament would be another positive step for Thai football.”

Panunpong was sent off during Thailand’s 2-1 loss to Indonesia two years ago after he handled the ball that resulted in the penalty from which the home side scored the winning goal. While he insists that he has put the incident behind him, he is nevertheless determined to make amends for it.

“It wasn’t a good experience to be sent off in that crucial match but I have moved on from that,” he said. “Now the most important thing is to bring success to the Thai people.”

Philippines 0 Singapore 0

Singapore had the upper hand against a tentative Philippine side on Saturday night but could only muster a scoreless draw in the opening leg of their AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila. 

The Lions rattled the usually sturdy defence of the Azkals early on but lacked the finishing touch to fashion a victory and will head back to Singapore rueing the missed opportunities that could have given them a decisive edge in the return leg on Wednesday at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Playing a huge role in the stalemate was veteran Filipino goalkeeper Eduard Sacapano, who was able to maintain his poise in the face of the relentless pressure of the visitors, keeping his third straight clean sheet stretching back to the group stage in Bangkok.

Singapore coach Radojko Avramovic said at the post-match press conference that he was satisfied with the draw “and generally it was a good game played by two strong squads.”

“We had our chances in the first half and we were more creative but this happens. We are still in a good position. If we win in Singapore then we are in the finals,” he said.

Philippines coach Michael Weiss conceded that his charges did not play to their potential.

“I think we saw two different halves today. In the first half we were sitting too deep and played into the hands of Singapore,” he said.

“This led them to easily build up and distribute long balls, creating difficult situations for us in the back line.”

Weiss said his substitution of midfielder Jason de Jong – “who missed a lot of loose balls” - with Marwin Angeles at the start of the second half changed the complexion of the match somewhat but still left him dissatisfied.

“If the midfield doesn’t show up and distribute balls very well, you end up with loose balls and you end up playing defensively with no time to create chances,” he noted.

Weiss also said that the Azkals might have succumbed to the pressure of playing their first AFF Suzuki Cup match in front of the hometown crowd.

“When three or four players play below their usual level then that might be the reason,” he said.

Despite the home draw, the German coach said that all was not lost for the Philippines “because if we win or draw with goals (against Singapore) then we are in the finals.”

The first chance of the game fell to Singapore in the third minute, Shahdan Sulaiman ballooning the ball over the bar from 10 yards.

Singapore continued to press forward and Khairul Amri had a shot blocked though the better option looked like a through ball to Aleksandar Duric in space.

Amri latched onto a long ball in the 20th minute but his half-hit shot was pushed away for a corner by ‘keeper Sacapano.

In a rare attack, Angel Guirado, who had been the most menacing of the Philippine forwards, found Phil Younghusband with a chipped pass in the 24th minute only for the striker’s weak shot to be easily saved by Izwan Mahbud.

Singapore should have taken the lead in the 25th minute. Duric’s shot-cum-cross was met by Shahril Ishak at the back post but the tournament’s top scorer hit into the side netting with the goal gaping.

The Lions started the second half brightly and a free kick from Amri in the 47th minute whizzed narrowly over the bar.

Shahril, who was looking lively, stood up a ball at the back post for Duric and the veteran headed wide under pressure from centre back Rob Gier.

Philippines worked their way into the game and gave Singapore a scare in the 73rd minute, a well-struck free-kick from Paul Mulders going past the upright with Izwan static on his line.

Philippines subsitute Emelio Caligdong, who scored the winner against Vietnam in Group A action, found himself on the end of a neat build up in the 84th minute but his first touch let him down and the chance was gone.

In injury time, Duric bustled his way through the defence and found the overlapping Shaiful Esah with a lovely ball but the defender’s goal-bound effort was deflected for a corner.
Get widget