Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia to meet; Lions set for Japan duel

Three of Southeast Asia’s traditional heavyweights – Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia – will face off in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers are they were all drawn in Group F on Tuesday.

The draw for the second round of qualification took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and saw a total of ten teams from Southeast Asia find out their path to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, which will see each of them play eight matches from June to next March.

Apart from the World Cup, the qualifiers will also double up for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, which means Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia all stand an excellent chance of progressing to the continent’s biggest tournament.

Although Iraq are favourites to finish top of Group F, the trio of Southeast Asian countries will all fancy their prospects of fighting it out for second place, given the remaining team is minnows Chinese Taipei.

Over in Group E, Singapore and Cambodia both face a tricky route to the next round after being pitted against Asian giants Japan, Syria and Afghanistan.

Malaysia find themselves in Group A along with regional rivals Timor-Leste, although they will be aware they will have to get a result against either United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia or Palestine to have any chance of advancing to the Asian Cup.

Neighbours Myanmar and Laos will meet in Group G along with Korea Republic, Kuwait and Lebanon, while Philippines face Uzbekistan, Bahrain, Korea DPR and Yemen in Group H.

2018 FIFA World Cup Second Round Qualifying Draw

Group A: United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Timor Leste, Malaysia

Group B: Australia, Jordan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh

Group C: China, Qatar, Maldives, Bhutan, Hong Kong

Group D: Iran, Oman, India, Turkmenistan, Guam

Group E: Japan, Syria, Afghanistan, Singapore, Cambodia

Group F: Iraq, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Chinese Taipei

Group G: Korea Republic, Kuwait, Lebanon, Myanmar, Laos

Group H: Uzbekistan, Bahrain, Philippines, Korea DPR, Yemen

2014 AFF Suzuki Cup Team of the Tournament

The final ball has been kicked and it is Thailand who have emerged triumphant after being crowned champions of the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup.

Given they were widely regarded as favourites before the tournament began, it should come as no surprise that they have reclaimed their status as the number one side in Southeast Asia for the first time since 2002.

Over the past month, several members of the War Elephants established themselves as national heroes following their pivotal roles in bringing a fourth regional crown back to Thailand, including the likes of Kawin Thamsatchanan, Chanathip Songkrasin and Charyl Chappuis.

However, a number of players from Malaysia can also hold their heads high after leading their side to an impressive – and what many assumed was impossible – run to the final, while Philippines and Vietnam also gave a good account of themselves before ultimately falling at the semi-final stage.

Here, Football SEA picks our best players from the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup in a 4-2-3-1 formation, including seven substitutes, as well as our top coach from the tournament.

GK: Kawin Thamsatchanan (Thailand)

He may not have been the busiest of goalkeepers given the Thais dominated almost all their matches, but – whenever he was called upon – Kawin proved to be equal to the task.

The Muangthong United man’s finest game was arguably the 0-0 draw against Philippines in the first leg of the semi-finals, when he refused to be beaten even after his side were reduced to ten men following Adisak Kraisorn’s dismissal.

Kawin got better as the tournament wore on and kept a vital clean sheet in the first leg of the final after producing fine stops to deny Norshahrul Idlan Talaha and Indra Putra Mahayuddin, which went a long way in helping the Thais claim the title.

RB: Simone Rota (Philippines)

If there were doubts over who Philippines’ first-choice right-back was ahead of the tournaments, there should no longer be any after Rota’s determined displays throughout the tournament.

The 30-year-old’s campaign got off to a fine start when he opened the Azkals’ account with a well-taken equaliser in the 4-1 Group A win over Laos, which helped settle their nerves after Khampheng Sayavutthi had fired their opponents in front.

Rota came face to face with some of the region’s most-dangerous wingers, including Zulham Zamrun and Kroekrit Thaweekarn, but never lowered his colours apart from one testing encounter against Vietnam’s Pham Thanh Luong during the group stage.

CB: Shukor Adan (Malaysia)

Alas, it was not to be for the 35-year-old as he failed to finish off his international career with a Suzuki Cup winner’s medal.

But Shukor will have no shame in the manner in which he signed off on his 14 years with Malaysia, especially given how many questioned his selection in the squad before the start of the tournament.

Handed the captain’s armband by Harimau Malaya coach Dollah Salleh, Shukor relished the challenge of leading his troops and at times looked to be the only one holding the shaky backline together, and was arguably his side’s best player throughout.

CB: Tanaboon Kesarat (Thailand)

With Thailand boss Kiatisuk Senamuang opting to leave out experienced defenders like Panupong Wongsa, Chonlatit Jantakam and Nataporn Phanrit, many wondered how the backline would hold up against the region’s deadliest strikers.

To be fair, it was in defence where the War Elephants looked the most vulnerable at times but they ultimately got the job done, and Tanaboon deserves plenty of credit for the way he stepped up despite his tender years.

Blessed with an ability to read the play, strong physical attributes as well as good technique, the future looks extremely bright for the 21-year-old, who also showed in the 2-0 Group B victory over Myanmar that he’s more than capable of being deployed in midfield.

LB: Peerapat Notechaiya (Thailand)

Peerapat started the tournament as Kiatisuk’s first-choice left-back in the 2-1 win over Singapore, although a niggling injury then saw him replaced by veteran Chayapat Kitpongsritada in the next two games.

But once he regained full fitness, the BEC Tero Sasana starlet was straight back into the team and displayed remarkable maturity for a 21-year-old, as well as impressing with his tireless running down the flank.

Thailand may currently be blessed with a host of talented left-backs, including 2013 Thai Premier League Player of the Year Theerathon Bunmathan, but Peerapat could just make the position his own if he continues to develop and realise his full potential.

CM: Sarach Yooyen (Thailand)

Given the number of famous names in the Thailand side, it was perhaps easy to overlook a pint-sized defensive midfielder by the name of Sarach Yooyen, although those who did notice him would be aware of just how important he was to the team.

Despite his slight frame, the Muangthong youngster had plenty of bite in his challenges as he looked to shield his defenders, but it was the way he broke up opposition attacks with his understanding of the game that made him stand out as an anchorman.

Once he had won possession, he was always looking to get his team on the front foot with his precise distribution, and he was also never afraid to have a go himself; his blistering freekick in the second leg of the final that forced Farizal Marlias into a flying save eventually led to Chappuis’ pivotal strike.

CM: Safiq Rahim (Malaysia)

It can be argued that Safiq still did not display his true ability despite finishing the tournament as the top scorer with six goals, and playing as a traditional central midfielder no less.

Given his obvious talent, the Johor Darul Ta’zim playmaker did not always get into the game and lacked the urgency in several key moments when his side needed it badly.

But for sheer impact and ability to keep his nerve in the biggest moments, Safiq gets the nod after his four clinically-taken penalties, along with a fine individual effort and a sublime freekick, helped Harimau Malaya get as close to winning the title as they did.

RW: Amri Yahyah (Malaysia)

Along with Shukor, Amri was perhaps the one Malaysian player that emerged from the tournament with plenty of credit to his name.

His selflessness and versatility have always been known to fans given how he’s often been deployed as a winger rather than his favoured position as a striker, but the way he – at times – looked to singlehandedly drag his side over the line was nothing short of inspirational.

Amri may have finished the tournament with only one goal to his name but much of the good work he produced was done in the build-up, and he did almost provide the goal of the tournament in the 3-2 Group B loss to Thailand after his stunning 60-yard lob over Kawin came crashing back off the bar.

AM: Phil Younghusband (Philippines)

For the third tournament in a row, the Azkals progressed to the last four to reaffirm their status as one of Southeast Asia’s major forces.

Despite having got among the goals in 2010 and 2012, Younghusband unfairly entered the tournament with queries from some quarters over his big-game mentality, despite being Philippines’ all-time top scorer at the age of 27.

By the time his side had played their opening two matches, those doubts had been emphatically dispelled with two goals and three assists to his name and although he failed to add to that tally thereafter, he often loomed as his side’s likeliest source of something special and seemed to excel playing as a second striker.

LW: Chanathip Songkrasin (Thailand)

Granted, it was Kroekrit Thaweekarn, and not Chanathip, that was Thailand’s first-choice left winger throughout the tournament but given the way the latter freely roamed the pitch, is it really possible to pinpoint a fixed position where he was deployed in?

One thing is for certain – whenever he received the ball in the attacking third, he was almost always unstoppable with his phenomenal control, sublime dribbling and blistering pace.

Nonetheless, he also bucked the trend of most silky attackers by regularly looking for his team-mates rather than go it on his own, and was deservedly named the Most Valuable Player of the competition.

ST: Le Cong Vinh (Vietnam)

Before the start of the tournament, there were rumours that coach Toshiya Miura was considering leaving Cong Vinh out of his final 22 and, following a couple of quiet years at club level, it was certainly fair to ponder if we had seen the best of the one-time golden boy of Vietnam.

While his campaign may have begun on the bench, it took him just 13 minutes to make an impact after coming on as a second-half substitute in the 2-2 draw against Indonesia; latching onto a weak clearance header and sending a spectacular first-time volley into the top corner.

Cong Vinh went on to finish the campaign with four goals to his name, including a well-taken brace in the 4-2 loss to Malaysia in the second leg of the semi-finals, and was the most-impressive spearhead in a tournament that really lacked genuine quality from the out-and-out strikers.

Coach: Kiatisuk Senamuang (Thailand)

A gold medal at last year’s Southeast Asian Games and a remarkable fourth-place finish at this year’s Asian Games – was there anything left for Kiatisuk to achieve?

The answer was a resounding yes as the legendary former Thailand striker became the first person to win the Suzuki Cup both as a player and coach, gaining a new legion of fans across the region in the process for his cool demeanour on the touchline, as well as the way he always conducted himself with immense class.

Kiatisuk’s reputation has now been further enhanced by the fact that he is the man that ended the War Elephants’ 12-year wait to reclaim the AFF crown, which was made even more impressive by the fact that the average age of his squad was just 24.

The future is bright for Thailand, and the future is certainly bright for Kiatisuk.

Substitutes

GK: Hassan Sunny (Singapore)

Hassan ultimately did not get much of a chance to prove his worth given Singapore’s disappointing group-stage exit, although he was one of the Lions’ best performers and continues to rival Kawin as the region’s number one goalkeeper.

FB: Zulkifli Syukur (Indonesia)

One of just two Indonesia players to start all three Group A games, Zulkifli – at times – looked like the only player in the side with a remote idea of how to defend, and deserves credit for the way he regularly covered Achmad Jufriyanto and Muhammad Roby.

CB: Le Phuoc Tu (Vietnam)

At 30, Phuoc Tu was the oldest player in the Vietnam side along with Le Tan Tai but more than held his own against younger, faster and fitter opponents, only to be ultimately let down by some shambolic defending from Dinh Tien Thanh, Nguyen Van Bien and goalkeeper Tran Nguyen Manh in the 4-2 semi-final second-leg loss to the Malaysians.

CM: Charyl Chappuis (Thailand)

The new poster boy of Thai football – Chappuis certainly proved he is capable of delivering the goods after grabbing four goals, although he still has room for improvement given the way he went quiet for significant periods in a couple of matches, as well as his tendency to go for the killer pass too often.

WG: Vu Minh Tuan (Vietnam)

While many expected Nguyen Van Quyet to be Vietnam’s brightest spark before the tournament began, he failed to really fire and instead it was Minh Tuan who proved to be a real threat down the right with his enterprising runs and direct style of play that really caused problems for his opponents, especially against Laos and Philippines.

FW: Indra Putra Mahayuddin (Malaysia)

Although the veteran did not start any of Malaysia’s first four matches, he had such an impact coming off the bench that it was impossible for Dollah to leave him out thereafter, and he went on to become Harimau Malaya’s most-creative outlet in the attacking third in their charge to a runners-up finish.

ST: Khairul Amri (Singapore)

Like Cong Vinh, Amri was one of the few out-and-out strikers that managed to put in a series of consistent displays, even though he only had three games to showcase his abilities. His dominant display as a target-man in Singapore’s 2-1 opening day defeat to Thailand set the standard, and he always gave opposition defenders something to think about.

Thailand charge into semis with perfect record in Group B

Thailand finished off their 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup Group B campaign with a perfect record after downing Myanmar 2-0 at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday evening.

The War Elephants broke the deadlock in the 12th minute after patient build-up in the final third eventually saw the ball break to Sarawut Masuk, who laid it off to Tanaboon Kesarat for the BEC Tero Sasana man to send a rocket of a strike from 25 yards in off the bar.

Myanmar did have numerous chances to get back into the contest but Kyaw Ko Ko had a shot cleared off the line by Suttinun Phuk-hom, Kyi Lin saw his exquisite strike come back off the bar, while Kyaw Zayar Win, Min Min Thu and Nanda Lin Kyaw Chit were also wasteful in front of goal.

And in the end, the Thais went on to seal the in six minutes from time as Prakit Deeprom lined up a freekick on the edge of the box and curled a sublime effort beyond Thiha Sithu’s despairing dive.

Thailand are now through to the last four with a perfect record in the group stage for the second tournament in a row, and will now meet Group A runners-up Philippines in the semis.

Thailand: Chanin Sae-Eae, Artit Daosawang, Pravinwat Boonyong, Suttinun Phuk-hom, Chayapat Kitpongsritada (Peerapat Notechaiya 87’), Adul Lahso (Chainarong Tathong 52’), Tanaboon Kesarat, Sarawut Masuk, Sompong Soleb (Monkol Tossagri 79’), Prakit Deeprom, Kirati Keawsombat.

Myanmar: Thiha Sithu, David Htan, Aung Zaw, Zaw Min Tun, Sithu Aung, Win Min Htut, Min Min Thu (Chit Su Moe 85’), Kyi Lin, Kyaw Zayar Win (Than Paing 86’), Soe Min Oo (Nanda Lin Kyaw Chit 46’), Kyaw Ko Ko.

Thailand out to extend perfect run at Myanmar’s expense

Thailand coach Kiatisuk Senamuang wants his side to finish their 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup Group B campaign with victory over Myanmar on Saturday evening.

Having claimed 2-1 and 3-2 wins in their opening two games over Singapore and Malaysia respectively, the War Elephants are already through to the semi-finals ahead of Saturday’s final match at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

On the other hand, Myanmar – with just one point to their name – will need to beat the Thais and hope for a favourable result in the other match between Singapore and Malaysia.

Although many expect Thailand to rest a few key players ahead of the semis, Kiatisuk insists their desire to land a first AFF crown since 2002 will ensure they do not take their foot off the pedal.

“We want to play our best in every match and aim to get the maximum points,” the legendary Thailand striker said, according to the competition’s official website.

“We respect every team but if we can maintain our standards, then we have a chance of winning the title.

“Nonetheless, I don’t want to put any extra pressure on my players.”

Kiatisuk’s sentiments were echoed by War Elephants centre-back Adisorn Promrak, who said: “Even though we have already qualified, the players are hungry to win and play our best for the Thai people.”

If Myanmar are to pull off a real upset on Saturday, coach Radojko Avramovic will need the likes of Kyaw Ko Ko and Kyi Lin to fire against an opposition defence that has not exactly been convincing so far in the tournament.

However, Avramovic claims that he has been satisfied with how his attackers have been doing so far, and it is at the back where he is concerned about.

“We must improve our defence,” the Serb said. “We cannot allow such easy goals like those we conceded [in the 4-2 loss] against Singapore.

“Our players need more international experience but they have to believe in themselves.

“We will try to give Thailand a good game.

“Against Singapore, we were punished for poor defending. The team tried their best [to come back] in the second half but it was already too late.

“I just hope that we continue to have that [fighting] attitude and we are now all playing for our supporters. They have been fantastic, even when we were 3-0 down [against Singapore].”

Singapore see off Myanmar to stay in the hunt

Singapore remain in the running to qualify for the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup semi-finals after claiming a 4-2 win over Myanmar in Wednesday’s Group B clash at the National Stadium.

The Lions took the lead after 16 minutes when Shaiful Esah whipped in a 25-yard freekick that sailed past a sea of players, before taking a bounce and making its way into the bottom corner.

Five minutes after the half-hour mark, the hosts doubled their tally when Hariss Harun was picked out by Faris Ramli on the edge of the box and brought the ball under control with his chest, before sending a stunning volley past Thiha Sithu.

The contest then looked all but over when Singapore made it 3-0 two minutes before halftime as Hariss lashed another volley – this time on his left foot – into the back of the net, after Myanmar had failed to clear their lines from a corner.

However, the White Angels were handed a lifeline in the 56th minute when Kyaw Zayar Win broke free inside the area following a lovely one-two with Min Min Thu, before slotting his shot past Hassan Sunny.

Six minutes later, the deficit was reduced further as Kyaw Ko Ko stepped up to the penalty spot and fired straight down the middle, after he had been barged over by Safuwan Baharudin inside the area.

Nonetheless, any hopes Myanmar had of pulling off a miraculous comeback were ended 15 minutes from time when Khin Maung Lwin, in an attempt to clear another dangerous freekick by Shaiful, only succeeded in steering the ball past his own goalkeeper to seal the win for the Lions.

The victory means Singapore are now up to second place in Group B and a draw against arch-rivals Malaysia would be enough to see them advance to the last four, provided leaders Thailand beat Myanmar.

Myanmar: Thiha Sithu, David Htan, Aung Zaw, Win Min Htut, Khin Maung Lwin, Tin Win Aung, Yan Aung Kyaw (Kyi Lin 46’), Kyaw Zayar Win, Min Min Thu (Chit Su Moe 84’), Nanda Lin Kyaw Chit (Nyein Chan Aung 63’), Kyaw Ko Ko.

Singapore: Hassan Sunny, Ismadi Mukhtar (Al-Qaasimy Rahman 38’), Baihakki Khaizan, Safuwan Baharudin, Shaiful Esah, Hariss Harun, Shahdan Sulaiman (Zulfahmi Arifin 24’), Sahil Suhaimi (Fazrul Nawaz 77’), Shahril Ishak, Faris Ramli, Khairul Amri.

Stange insists Lions are raring to take on Myanmar

Singapore coach Bernd Stange claims his players are in good spirits ahead of Wednesday’s 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup Group B clash with Myanmar.

Having fallen to a 2-1 loss to Thailand in their opening game last Sunday, the Lions know that victory at the National Stadium against Myanmar will be crucial to their chances of qualifying for the knockout round.

But although there was clear disappointment in the Singapore camp after losing to an 89th-minute penalty in their last game, Stange insists his charges have put that result firmly behind them.

“The team is in good spirits and morale is high,” he said. “We’re ready to go and all that’s left to do is for me to decide my starting XI tomorrow [Wednesday] morning.

“We were very unlucky to lose to Thailand after missing many chances, and we will do better against Myanmar.

“There’s no need to talk so much and there’s nothing to explain before the game as it doesn’t matter; we have to win the next two matches to ensure we qualify and that’s what we want to do.

“I expect us to do better against Myanmar and I’m confident we can achieve a positive result.”

The Singaporeans will be coming up against a familiar face on Wednesday in the form of Myanmar coach Radojko Avramovic, who led the Lions to three AFF titles in 2004, 2007 and 2012.

Although the Serb admits his side will face a tough test against Singapore, he is hoping they can cause an upset.

“Of course, there is mixed feelings playing against a team I used to be in charge of,” he said.

“It will be a very important game for both Myanmar and Singapore and I think both sides will find it tough.

“The thing is that they will be under pressure, not us.

“In our last game against Malaysia, we should have taken all three points but were not able to score from the chances we created.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to improve on that in this game.”

Ten-man Malaysia hold Myanmar in Suzuki Cup opener

Malaysia overcame a one-man deficit to force a 0-0 draw against Myanmar in their 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup Group B opener on Sunday evening.

Harimau Malaya got off to a bright start at the Jalan Besar Stadium and even had the ball in the back of the net after six minutes when Amri Yahyah latched onto a brilliant through-pass from Gary Robbat and finished past Thiha Sithu, only to be denied by the linesman’s flag for offside.

A minute later, Myanmar had a golden opportunity when David Htan exchanged a lovely one-two with Kyi Lin before floating in a cross from the right, but Nanda Lin Kyaw Chit could only nod over from four yards out despite being left unmarked at the far post.

Min Min Thu was next to threaten for the White Angels with a 25-yard drive in the 19th minute that Khairul Fahmi initially spilled, although he recovered in time to gather before Kyaw Ko Ko could pounce.

It was then Malaysia’s turn to be wasteful in front of goal two minutes after the half-hour mark when Afif Amiruddin sent a close-range header over the bar after being picked out by Mahali Jasuli’s corner.

However, the turning point of the game came three minutes later when the Malaysians were reduced to ten men after Gary Robbat was shown a second yellow for tripping Kyi Lin from behind.

Still, they continued to look threatening and Amri Yahyah had a powerful freekick saved in the 42nd minute, before another set-piece attempt from Mahali drew an even better stop from Thiha Sithu on the stroke of halftime.

If Malaysia boss Dollah Salleh was already feeling aggrieved by Robbat’s sending-off, he would have been fuming even more ten minutes into the second half when S. Kunanlan charged into the box and fell under David Htan’s challenge, only for the referee to wave play on.

Norshahrul Idlan Talaha was next to have a penalty shout three minutes later when he went down in his attempt to latch on Shukor Adan’s looping pass, but again the referee was unmoved.

As the game entered its closing stages, it then looked as though Myanmar would snatch the win as they pushed forward with great intent.

Nonetheless, they were just unable to find a way past Fahmi, who made a number of excellent saves to earn his side a share of the spoils.

Malaysia: Khairul Fahmi, Mahali Jasuli, Afif Amiruddin, Fadhli Shas, Zubir Azmi, Gary Robbat, Shukor Adan (Baddrol Bakhtiar 76’), Azamuddin Akil (Safiq Rahim 70’), Amri Yahyah, S. Kunanlan, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (Indra Putra Mahayuddin 88’).

Myanmar: Thiha Sithu, David Htan, Aung Zaw, Win Min Htut, Khin Maung Lwin, Tin Win Aung, Yan Aung Kyaw, Kyi Lin (Kyaw Zayar Win 80’), Min Min Thu, Nanda Lin Kyaw Chit (Soe Min Oo 90’), Kyaw Ko Ko.