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

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Philippines striker Patino leaves Buriram for China

Philippines international Javier Patino will be plying his trade in the Chinese Super League this season after joining Henan Jianye from Buriram United.

The Spanish-born striker was just one of three foreign signings confirmed by Henan on Wednesday, along with Danish defender Eddi Gomes and Poland forward Mateusz Zachara from Esbjerg and Gornik Zabrze respectively.

After playing Alcobendas, SS Reyes, Cordoba and Xerez, Patino left his homeland in 2013 when he signed for Buriram and was an instant hit in Thailand, netting 16 goals in all competition as his side went on to claim the domestic treble of the Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup.

Last season, the 26-year-old was again in scintillating form and finished as his side’s top scorer with 21 goals in the league, as they retained the league crown after seeing off the challenge of second-placed Chonburi on the final day of the season.

However, his future at the New I-Mobile Stadium looked uncertain after the Thunder Castle brought in several attacking reinforcements in the off-season, including Brazilian forwards Rafael Coelho and Diogo, as well as New Zealand international Kayne Vincent.

And it has now been confirmed that Patino will no longer be gracing the Thai Premier League after his move to Chinese Super League outfit Henan was finalised.

Despite being born in Spain, Patino represents Philippines after qualifying the represent them through his mother.

He garnered plenty of attention when he received his Filipino citizenship and made an instant impact as he scored twice on debut in an 8-0 win over Cambodia in the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers.

Nonetheless, club commitments and the fact that several Southeast Asian tournaments are often played on non-FIFA international dates have restricted Patino’s involvement with the Azkals thus far.

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.

Kiatisuk sets sights on ending Thailand’s Suzuki Cup drought

Thailand coach Kiatisuk Senamuang is determined to lead his side to the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup title after they booked their place in the final on Wednesday evening.

Having played out a 0-0 draw in last Saturday’s first leg in Manila, the Thais were in ruthless mood at the Rajamangala Stadium as they took the lead through Chanathip Songkrasin’s sixth-minute opener, before a second-half brace from Kroekrit Thaweekarn sealed a commanding win.

The War Elephants, who will meet either Vietnam or Malaysia in the final, are now just 180 minutes from being crowned Southeast Asian champions for the first time since 2002, and Kiatisuk has stressed his charges now the significance of getting the job done.

“The equation was simple for us today [Wednesday] after we only managed a draw in Philippines,” he said.

“Our target was to come back to Thailand and get the win and we were able to do that, and I want to thank all the fans for coming down to the stadium to support us.

“There are now only two games left against either Vietnam or Malaysia; we remain confident, we will do our best and hopefully we can bring the cup back to Thailand.

“Both Vietnam and Malaysia are very strong and we must respect them, so it doesn’t really matter who we meet in the final.

“The only thing that’s important is to win the final and get the cup.”

Kiatisuk certainly deserved praise for his tactical masterstroke in naming playmaker Chanathip as the focal point in attack after injury and suspension deprived him the services of Kirati Keawsombat and Adisak Kraisorn respectively, even though he had strikers Sompong Soleb and Chainarong Tathong waiting in the wings.

Although he did not confirm that Adisak would be reinstated to his starting XI for the final, he did back the 23-year-old to make amends for the red card he received in the first leg at the weekend.

“We wanted to show our support for Adisak today in the best way possible – by going onto the field and getting the win,” the legendary striker added.

“Adisak has now understood the mistake he made in the previous game and he’s raring to come back and prove his worth to the fans once more.

“He’s not lacking in any confidence, he’s still training with us fully and he’s waiting for the final.”

Dooley proud of Philippines despite AFF semi-final exit

Thomas Dooley insists his Philippines side can “hold their heads high” after being eliminated from the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup with a 3-0 aggregate defeat to Thailand in the semi-finals.

After playing out a 0-0 draw in last Saturday’s first leg in Manila, the Azkals found themselves outclassed at the Rajamangala Stadium on Wednesday as their opponents cruised to victory courtesy of Chanathip Songkrasin’s sixth-minute opener and a second-half double from Kroekrit Thaweekarn.

But having seen his side accomplish a number of historic feats in the past few weeks, Dooley was quick to point out that they can be proud of what they have achieved.

“Overall, I’m happy with the way we played and the results we’ve had in this tournament,” he said.

“We managed to claim an outstanding 4-0 win over Indonesia in the group stage, which was the first time we’ve beaten them in 80 years, and then we were able to draw with Thailand at home.

“We can go back with our heads held high and it was a good tournament where we played nice football.

“The only thing was that we came up against a side that were probably at a different level in every area.”

Having made it to the last four in the past three editions of the Suzuki Cup, Philippines have now firmly established themselves as a genuine force in Southeast Asian football.

Nonetheless, Dooley admits there are still areas where they must improve if they are to take the next step and win the tournament for the first time in their history.

“We already knew that if Thailand didn’t have a good game and we had a great game, then maybe we would stand a chance,” the former United States international added.

“It’s already very difficult to play against a strong Thailand side and then you have those fantastic fans pushing them on. Congratulations to Thailand – they are a great team and deserved to win this semi-final.

“I need to watch the replay of the match but it looked like we made some mistakes that we’ve talked about over and over again.

“It certainly didn’t start well when we gave them a freekick in a dangerous position after just 30 seconds, which was exactly what we didn’t want to do.

“Then, just when we got better in general play in the second half, we had another error in the defensive area, where we lacked urgency when we needed it.

“Thailand are definitely one of the strongest teams I’ve seen but it’s always 50-50 in football, so we’ll have to wait and see if they win the cup.”

Thailand cruise past Azkals into Suzuki Cup final

Thailand are through to the final of the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup after beating ten-man Philippines 3-0 in the second leg of their semi-final tie to seal a 3-0 aggregate win.

Chanathip Songkrasin got the War Elephants off to a dream start when he struck from close range in the sixth minute, before Kroekrit Thaweekarn doubled their lead two minutes before the hour mark.

Philippines’ hopes of mustering a miraculous comeback were then effectively ended in the 82nd minute when they had Martin Steuble sent off, and the hosts went on to seal a commanding victory when Kroekrit struck again five minutes later.

The result means the Thais are now just 180 minutes away from being crowned champions of Southeast Asia for a fourth time – and their first since 2002 – which will also see them equal Singapore’s record number of titles.

With Adisak Kraisorn suspended for the game after being sent off in last Saturday’s first leg at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, as well as Kirati Keawsombat missing through injury, much of the pre-match talk surrounded who Thailand coach Kiatisuk Senamuang would pick to spearhead his attack.

But despite having both Sompong Soleb and Chainarong Tathong in reserve, the legendary striker opted to deploy playmaker Chanathip Songkrasin as the focal point up front, and the move worked to perfection after just six minutes.

Meeting Peerapat Notechaiya’s searching left-wing cross, Narubodin Weerawatnodom did well to nod the ball back into the path of Chanathip Songkrasin, who kept his cool despite being surrounded by a sea of defenders before lashing his shot home.

It could easily have been 2-0 four minutes later when Chanathip dinked a lovely through-ball to release Monkol Tossagri inside the box, only for Patrick Deyto to rush out well and deny him in a one-on-one situation.

Buoyed by their excellent start to the contest, the hosts began to gain a stranglehold on proceedings and were dominating proceedings, while their opponents were really struggling to create any opportunities of their own.

The War Elephants had another good chance in the 38th minute when Philippines could only clear Narubodin’s dangerous cross as far as to Peerapat, but he was only able to send a fierce 25-yard effort over the bar.

It then looked as though Thailand could live to regret their failure to make the most of their first-half supremacy; Prakit Deeprom racing through to latch onto Chanathip’s visionary pass a minute before halftime and opting for the pass despite having only Deyto to beat, which resulted in him playing the ball just too far ahead of Charyl Chappuis.

Nonetheless, the Azkals did come out after the break with renewed vigour, knowing an away goal could drastically change the complexion of the game.

Martin Steuble nearly grabbed that for them seven minutes into the second half but he was unable to beat Kawin Thamsatchanan, who produced a fantastic save to tip his long-range piledriver to safety.

Chanathip, who was pivotal in everything his side were creating in the attacking third, then came close to grabbing his second of the evening in the 54th minute when he pounced on a clearance and fired away a firm effort that forced Deyto into a smart save down low.

However, just two minutes later, Thailand finally made it 2-0 when Prakit Deeprom produced a defence-splitting pass to find Kroekrit, who got in behind Simone Rota and did well to hold off the defender’s desperate challenge before slotting into the bottom corner.

With a two-goal cushion now in their grasp, the hosts were always likely to be able to play out the remainder of the game and seal their progress into the final.

Still, that did not stop them from looking to hit on the break with Philippines pushing more and more men forward, and Kroekrit perhaps could have done better in the 80th minute when he fired into the side-netting from a tight angle after being released by Chanathip.

Just two minutes later, the visitors’ bid to claw their way back into the contest was made near-impossible; Steuble being shown his second yellow after clattering into Prakit in the middle of the park.

And three minutes from time, Thailand added a third to act a touch of gloss to a commanding display as Kroekrit broke free once more down the left and skipped inside Aguinaldo, before finishing past a hapless Deyto.

Thailand: Kawin Thamsatchanan, Narubodin Weerawatnodom, Suttinun Phuk-hom, Tanaboon Kesarat, Peerapat Notechaiya, Sarach Yooyen, Charyl Chappuis, Prakit Deeprom (Adul Lahso 84’), Monkol Tossagri (Sarawut Masuk 77’), Kroekrit Thaweekarn (Sompong Soleb 89’), Chanathip Songkrasin.

Philippines: Patrick Deyto, Simone Rota (Mark Hartmann 70’), Amani Aguinaldo, Rob Gier, Daisuke Sato (Patrick Reichelt 32’), Manny Ott, Jerry Lucena, Martin Steuble, Paul Mulders (Chris Greatwich 73’), Misagh Bahadoran, Phil Younghusband.

Kiatisuk wants Thailand to learn from ‘difficult’ Philippines test

Thailand coach Kiatisuk Senamuang is hoping his young side can take lessons from Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Philippines in the first leg of their 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final tie.

The War Elephants, regarded by many as tournament favourites, charged into the last four of the competition after winning all three of their Group B games against Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar.

They were expected to continue their impressive displays at the Rizal Memorial Stadium on Saturday against a Philippines side that had lost all six of their previous meetings in the competition, but were instead given quite a stern test.

The Azkals threatened on numerous occasions and only the heroics of Kawin Thamsatchanan, as well as some resolute defending from the likes of Suttinun Phuk-hom and Peerapat Notechaiaya, prevented the Thais from falling to a shock defeat.

To make matters worse for Kiatisuk, striker Adisak Kraisorn will be suspended for the next game after being shown a straight red following an off-the-ball incident with Amani Aguinaldo, having been introduced as a substitute earlier in Saturday’s match for the injured Kirati Keawsombat.

Admitting their opening encounter with Philippines had been far from straightforward, Kiatisuk spoke of his optimism that his side were able to take out the positives ahead of next Wednesday’s second leg at the Rajamangala Stadium.

“It was not easy for us today [Saturday],” he said. “Philippines are a very strong team and we respect them.

“They worked hard and we also tried, but this is football – you cannot expect to win all the time.

“Today was difficult for us tactically especially when we got the red card. It was just a tackle but the referee thought something else of it and we respect his decision.

“My team is so young – they have to learn many things like playing with ten men.”

With Adisak missing through suspension and Kirati likely to be absent after appearing to pick up a serious hamstring injury, it remains to be seen who the War Elephants boss will turn to in order to fill the void in attack.

The two most straightforward replacements are Bangkok United’s Sompong Soleb and Chainarong Tathong of Army United given they are the other two recognised strikers in his 22-man squad, but neither have exactly fired on all cylinders in the Thai Premier League this season.