HA NOI (VNS) — "I want to win the cup. I want to win it for the people of Thailand," head coach Kiatisuk "Zico" Senamuang said before his team went on to compete in the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Cup's first-leg final match.
Thailand's 2-0 win over Malaysia yesterday at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok is a step closer to the coach's target.
Charyl Yannic Chappuis opened the score through a penalty shootout at the 72nd minute after teammate Adisak Kraison fell down in the box.
Chappuis made no mistake against goalkeeper Mohd Farizal Marlias.
Thailand scored once again roughly 15 minutes later, when Chanathip Songkrasin broke into the Malaysian area and passed two final defenders before giving the ball to Thai ‘Messi' Kroekrit Thawikan, who tapped straight to the left corner.
This is the second win of Thailand against Malaysia in the tournament. In their group round match, Malaysia led twice, but the Thais eventually attained victory through Kraison's efforts in the dying minutes of the game.
Initially standing in the way of Zico's dreams of winning the title again was Malaysian coach Dollah Salleh – whose tactics led to stunning victories in the previous rounds. His plan collapsed only when his aged players failed to keep up with the incredible speed and strong physique of the young Thais.
Malaysia will have to overturn the result at the return match when they will serve as hosts to Thailand at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.
They will need to exert the same aggressive and powerful efforts they showcased in their winning match against Viet Nam, which ended at 5-4 during the semi-finals last week.
However, the Thais are also going to the match with confidence as they have not incurred any losses since the tournament started last month.
Moreover, the Football Association of Thailand have just upped the ante by offering the team a total of THB23 million (US$701,000) should they win the title this year.
Thailand dominated the early years of the competition, but began to go downhill as they lost their last three AFF Cup final appearances. After claiming the inaugural title in 1996, they went on to bag two more victories in 2000 and 2002.
Meanwhile, Malaysia won the cup once under the guidance of their previous coach, Datuk K. Rajagopal in 2010. — VNS