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.

Delighted Dollah has faith Malaysia can win Suzuki Cup

Dollah Salleh believes his Malaysia side can win the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup if they can produce a repeat of Thursday’s stunning 4-2 win over Vietnam in the second leg of their semi-final.

Having been beaten 2-1 at home in the first leg at the weekend, Harimau Malaya turned the tie completed on its head with a scintillating display at the My Dinh National Stadium to claim a 5-4 aggregate victory and set up a final meeting with Thailand.

Although few would argue Malaysia are not deserving of their place in the decider, the War Elephants are widely regarded as favourites given their dominant displays throughout the tournament thus far.

However, Dollah insists his side can have plenty of reason to be optimistic if they can play like they did on Sunday.

“The players did well in this match,” he said. “We had four chances in the first half and the players made them count.

“I didn’t expect us to score four goals to win the match. The players did exceptionally well and I’m proud of them for this win, as I’ve only been with the team for a short time.

“If we can repeat this performance, we can go further.”

Meanwhile, Vietnam coach Toshiya Miura admitted his side chose the worst possible occasion to produce their sloppiest display, although he insists complacency had not been a factor in their demise.

“This was our worst performance after playing four matches,” the Japanese tactician said.

“We didn’t play well in the first half and it cost us the game. When we did get it right, it was too late.

“[But] I don’t think it was because the players already thought they had qualified for the final.”

Malaysia stun Vietnam to set up Suzuki Cup final with Thailand

Malaysia are through to the final of the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup after beating Vietnam 4-2 in Thursday’s semi-final second leg to claim a 5-4 aggregate victory.

Having fallen to a 2-1 loss at the Shah Alam Stadium in Sunday’s opening encounter, the odds were firmly stacked against Harimau Malaya given they had conceded two vital away goals, and were also coming up against a team that had conceded just thrice at home in the tournament.

However, they were handed the perfect chance to draw first blood in the third minute when a perfectly-weighted pass by Norshahrul Idlan Talaha found Indra Putra Mahayuddin, who had his heels clipped by Que Ngoc Hai just as he was about to pull the trigger.

Safiq Rahim stepped up and fired home the penalty that had been awarded but the referee called for a retake due to encroachment by the Malaysian players, although all that did was delay the inevitable as the Johor Darul Ta’zim playmaker went the same direction and found the bottom corner once more.

The hosts then had a couple of half-chances to get back into the contest with Le Cong Vinh destined to meet Nguyen Van Quyet’s right-wing cross at the far post until S. Kunanlan made a vital clearance in the 14th minute, before Ngoc Hai had a low drive blocked after the resultant corner had been inadequately dealt with by Indra Putra’s weak header.

But just a minute later, Malaysia remarkably edged further ahead after a searching pass from Amri Yahyah made its way in between Dinh Tien Thanh and Nguyen Van Bien and found Norshahrul, who capitalised on some poor defending – and indecisive goalkeeping – to lift the ball over the onrushing Tran Nguyen Manh and fire into an unguarded net.

Vietnam were then awarded a penalty of their own in the 23rd minute and Cong Vinh made no mistake in sending Farizal Marlias the wrong way, after he had been illegally prevented from meeting a corner by Amri inside the area.

Nonetheless, just as it looked like the hosts had regained the momentum, the Malaysians netted the all-important third away goal a minute before the half-hour mark; Indra Putra running onto Badhri Radzi’s excellent diagonal pass and floating in a cross that Tien Thanh – in a bid to make an interception – could only connect with his thigh and send it looping over Nguyen Manh and into the back of his own net.

Incredibly, it was 4-1 two minutes before halftime when Badhri’s corner was nodded by Fadhli Shas into the path of Shukor Adan, who found himself completely unmarked eight yards out and glanced a header in off the foot of the post, and it looked as though the contest was all but over.

To their credit, the Vietnamese were determined to force their way back into the contest after halftime but were just unable to find a way through, with the likes of Shukor and Kunanlan all doing brilliant jobs to keep their opponents at bay.

In the end, the hosts were able to reduce the deficit further when Cong Vinh broke free inside the box in the 79th minute and sent an emphatic drive into the top corner, but it proved to be little more than a consolation as it was Harimau Malaya who were marching on to the final at the final whistle.

Dollah Salleh’s charges are now 180 minutes away from claiming their second Suzuki Cup title following their maiden triumph in 2010, although it will be far from easy coming up against a Thailand side that were regarded by many as favourites to win it even before the tournament began.

Vietnam: Tran Nguyen Manh, Que Ngoc Hai, Dinh Tien Thanh, Le Phuoc Tu, Nguyen Van Bien, Nguyen Huy Hung, Ngo Hoang Thinh (Le Tan Tai 37’, Nguyen Hai Anh 50’), Pham Thanh Luong, Nguyen Van Quyet, Vo Huy Toan (Mac Hong Quan 46’), Le Cong Vinh.

Malaysia: Farizal Marlias, S. Kunanlan, Shukor Adan, Fadhli Shas, Zubir Azmi, Azamuddin Akil, Badhri Radzi (Baddrol Bakhtiar 78’), Safiq Rahim, Indra Putra Mahayuddin (Muslim Ahmad 90’), Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (Afif Amiruddin 87’), Amri Yahyah.

Vietnam fight back to claim first-leg lead over Malaysia

Vietnam came from behind at the Shah Alam Stadium on Sunday evening to record a 2-1 win over Malaysia in the first leg of their 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final clash.

It was Harimau Malaya who edged ahead in the 14th minute when Safiq Rahim coolly slotted his penalty into the bottom corner, after Mahali Jasuli’s fierce drive from the edge of the box was adjudged to have been blocked by Nguyen Huy Hung with his hand.

However, the visitors equalised three minutes after the half-hour mark as Nguyen Van Quyet raced through on goal and although his low shot drew a smart save from Khairul Fahmi, the loose ball rolled kindly into the path of Vo Huy Toan to smash a follow-up effort into the back of the net.

And in the 61st minute, the Vietnamese went on to grab the victory after Mac Hong Quan, moments after being brought on for Pham Thanh Luong, found space in the attacking third and spread the ball right to Van Quyet.

With a lovely touch, the Ha Noi T&T man cleverly skipped inside Zubir Azmi and, despite an impending challenge from Fadhli Shas, managed to curl a lovely shot into the far corner to win it for his side.

Vietnam are now favourites to advance to the final, where they would meet either Thailand or Philippines, given they are in possession of a one-goal lead ahead of Thursday’s second leg at the My Dinh National Stadium, as well as two valuable away goals.

Malaysia: Khairul Fahmi, Mahali Jasuli, Muslim Ahmad, Fadhli Shas, Zubir Azmi, Azamuddin Akil (Indra Putra Mahayuddin 80’), Safiq Rahim, Hafiz Kamal (Gary Robbat 59’), S. Kunanlan, Safee Sali, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (Abdul Manaf Mamat 73’).

Vietnam: Tran Nguyen Manh, Que Ngoc Hai, Dinh Tien Thanh, Le Phuoc Tu, Nguyen Van Bien, Nguyen Huy Hung, Ngo Hoang Thinh (Le Tan Tai 90’), Vo Huy Toan (Nguyen Thanh Hien 84’), Nguyen Van Quyet, Pham Thanh Luong (Mac Hong Quan 59’), Le Cong Vinh.

Dollah eyes significant lead in opening clash with Vietnam

Malaysia coach Dollah Salleh has challenged his side to make the most of home advantage in the first leg of their 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final against Vietnam on Sunday.

Harimau Malaya, who booked their place in the last four of Southeast Asia’s premier international tournament after finishing second in Group B, face a tricky test to the final after being pitted against a young and talented Vietnam side.

To make matters slightly more complicated, the Vietnamese will get to play the second leg at home, which will take place at the My Dinh National Stadium next Thursday.

However, with a full house expected at the Shah Alam Stadium in Sunday’s first leg, Dollah wants his side to make the most of what is likely to be a powerful atmosphere to claim a significant advantage.

“We’re playing at home and we’ll be aiming for two goals to take into the second leg in Hanoi,” he said on the tournament’s official website.

“I don’t think that Vietnam will play too defensively but even if they play with nine men behind the ball, we must find a way to break through their defence.”

The Malaysians did meet Vietnam last month in a pre-tournament friendly, where they fell to a 3-1 defeat and finished the game with ten men despite having led at halftime.

Nonetheless, the former Malaysia international claims it will be a different side that took on Vietnam on Sunday evening.

“I’m not worried by the fact that our team lost to Vietnam in a recent warm-up match,” Dollah added.

“That was in the early stage of our preparations when we were still not certain of our best XI.”

Although Vietnam enter the tie as slight favourites, coach Toshiya Miura has warned his players that they cannot afford to get complacent against an opposition side which incredible resilience to beat arch-rivals Singapore 3-1 on the final round of Group B matches to book their place in the semis.

“Malaysia are getting better game by game,” the Japanese said.

“Our team cannot afford to just fight for a draw but the important thing is that our players must maintain their focus throughout the match.

“I also expect the Malaysia fans to put pressure on my team.”

Dollah unfazed by Shukor, Amri absences in Vietnam tie

Dollah Salleh has backed his Malaysia side to cope without veteran duo Shukor Adan and Amri Yahyah in the first leg of their 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final against Vietnam.

Harimau Malaya secured their place in the last four of Southeast Asia’s premier international tournament last Saturday, after beating fierce rivals Singapore 3-1 to seal a top-two finish in Group B behind Thailand.

However, the win came at a price as both Shukor and Amri picked up their second bookings of the group stage and, as a result, will miss Sunday’s clash with the Vietnamese at the Shah Alam Stadium.

But Dollah, who only took charge of the national team back in June, believes he has more than enough options in reserve to call upon.

“I don’t think I have a problem here,” he said on the Suzuki Cup’s official website.

“Of course, I’ll miss two versatile players but the question is who will start?

“I’ll be working on the replacements in the next couple of days.”

The 51-year-old did admit that one thing Malaysia would miss on Sunday would be the authoritative influence brought to the backline by Shukor, who has captained the side in every game at the tournament so far.

Nonetheless, the former Pahang and PDRM coach believes he has a capable replacement in Muslim Ahmad, who was part of the side that were crowned champions in 2010 and was brought back from international exile by Dollah.

“Shukor Adan is the only one in the heart of defence who gives out instructions to the players,” Dollah added.

“With him suspended, I hope the others will take the lead to get the team moving, especially the senior players.

“Muslim is commanding at the back and even partnered Fadhli Shas at the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup, which Malaysia won. He should have no problems partnering his PDRM team-mate Afif Amiruddin.”

Following Sunday’s first leg against Toshiya Miura’s charges, Malaysia will fly to Hanoi to play the return encounter at the My Dinh National Stadium on December 11.