Coach Winfried Schafer is starting to believe that Thailand’s name is on the AFF Suzuki Cup after watching his entertaining team end the reign of defending champions Malaysia with a 2-0 (3-1 aggregate) victory in the second leg of the semi-final on Thursday.
Thailand took a step closer to breaking their decade-long title drought with an at times breathtakingly brilliant display of attacking football that reaped goals from Teerasil Dangda and Theerathon Bunmathan in front of a capacity crowd at Bangkok's Supachalasai Stadium.
“After this win, now I think we want to get the cup,” he said. “Thailand last won (the AFF Suzuki Cup) 10 years ago, the time has come to win again.”
Ever the perfectionist, Schafer felt that Thailand should have scored more goals in the second half when Malaysia were playing with 10 men after the dismissal of central defender Fadhli Shas.
“Everybody (in the camp) was very happy, we were the best team on the night,” said Schafer. “But playing 11 against 10 we had to concentrate more and get goal number three, four and five. That is what I wanted from my team.”
When asked if the red card had changed the complexion of the game, Schafer replied that Thailand had the upper hand when Malaysia still had 11 players.
“Maybe (the red card changed the complexion of the game). But in the first half, we were the better team. You saw the fantastic pass from Datsakorn Thonglao to Teerasil Dangda (to free the striker for a run on goal), it was beautiful,” he said
“I think when Malaysia were still playing with 11 players we had no problem.”
Thailand’s victory set up a rematch of the 2007 final with Singapore when the Lions won 3-2 on aggregate.
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 breakaway goal.
Datsakorn, the heart and brains of the Thailand team, and midfield partner Phichitphong Choeichiu were both on the losing side on that day and will want their revenge in this year’s final.
Schafer, for his part, is targeting a good result in the first leg at Singapore’s Jalan Besar Stadium on December 19 before delivering the coup de grace in Bangkok on December 22.
“It will not be easy because Singapore are a good side but I will be looking for a good result in the first leg and then present the cup to the fans back here in Bangkok,” he said.