Suzuki Cup Team of the Tournament

The 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup has come to a close and it was Singapore who were crowned champions of Southeast Asia after an enthralling month of action.

Teerasil pounces to hand Thailand the lead.
Gabriel Tan

By Gabriel Tan

As with every tournament, there were players who stood out and established themselves as genuine stars of the region, and there were those who failed miserably to live up to expectations.

Here, FOX Sports attempts to achieve the impossible by picking our best XI from the competition, as well as seven substitutes on the bench, given the amount of quality that has been on show.

As is the case with every good side, we've gone with a blend of youth and experience and decided the best way to fit everyone in was to go with a 3-4-3 formation.

GK: Izwan Mahbud (Singapore)


Throughout the early stages of the competition, Thailand's Kawin Thamsatchanan looked the standout goalkeeper as he remained alert despite the his lack of action given his team's dominating ways, and was always ready to pull off a stunning save.

While he may arguably still be the best goalkeeper of the lot, he was never really tested which is why we've gone for Singapore's 22-year-old custodian.

Izwan's ability as a shot-stopper has never been in doubt but as many teams found out throughout the 2012 Malaysia Super League season, he can be susceptible to errors of judgment in the air.

Singapore's opponents certainly tried to exploit that perceived weakness, only to discover aerial ability was no longer a weakness of his.

Despite his relatively small stature, he regularly claimed crosses with authority and was equally impressive on the ground.

CB: Panupong Wongsa (Thailand)


The 2012 Suzuki Cup has produced its fair share of inspirational figures but our captain's armband has to go to Panupong, a player who leads his team-mates by example on and off the field.

Granted, he is a terrific centre-back who never gives his opponent a yard of space, and is always looking to get his team on the front foot by playing the ball out of defence.

But what we really like about the Muangthong United man is the way he conducts himself.

Although he didn't shy away from giving Khairul Amri a bruising challenge in the second leg of the final, he immediately rushed over to check on his opponent after the striker had stayed down clutching his back.

Panupong's performances in the competition have shown it is possible to play football tough but fair at the same time.

CB: Baihakki Khaizan (Singapore)


A key factor when deciding our Team of the Tournament was balance, given we picked our starting XI with the consideration they would be able to actually play a game as a team.

Having gone with Panupong as our designated man-marker, the next defender on the list is Baihakki, who virtually cleared and intercepted every ball that came across his path throughout the campaign.

Unbeatable in the air and blessed with a perfect reading of what the opponents are trying to do, the presence of the 28-year-old in the heart of defence was a key factor in Singapore winning the title.

Throughout his career, Baihakki has also proven to be capable of popping up with the odd goal, which he did for the Lions when his 91st-minute strike made it 3-1 against the War Elephants.

While him popping up with a crucial injury-time goal would be a real bonus, the main reason why we've named the LIONSXII man in our side is plainly because he's one of the best and most-experienced defenders in the region.

CB: Rob Gier (Philippines)


Our final centre-back spot goes to Philippines veteran Gier, who - like Panupong and Baihakki - is also a real influential character, having captained the Azkals in four of their five games.

Honestly, we would like to see any strike force, not just in the region but the whole of Asia, carve out a goal-scoring opportunity against our central-defensive trio.

The one aspect of Gier's game that really stood out was his sheer determination as he gave 100% in every match, sometimes making last-ditch tackles others wouldn't even bother attempting.

The Ascot United man is also never afraid to get stuck in or put his body on the line for his side's cause, and was undoubtedly Philippines' best player of the campaign.

RWB: Mahalli Jasuli (Malaysia)


With three rock-solid defenders patrolling the back, we'd like to think they would be steadfast enough to allow for more attacking wing-backs.

But as fate would have, the two we've gone for are equally good at defending as they are attacking, just to be on the safe side.

On the right, we've gone for ex-Harimau Muda skipper Mahalli, who after being left out of the starting XI in Malaysia's opening Group B game against Singapore, was given the chance against Laos and kept his place all the way to the semi-finals.

His off-the-ball movement always kept the opposition on the back foot, and his technique meant he was always able to whip in a good cross or finish off the move himself.

Mahalli was particularly impressive in the 2-0 win over Indonesia when he crossed for Azamuddin Akil to open the scoring, before doubling Harimau Malaya's lead two minutes later with a delightful finish.

Already, Selangor look like they've pulled off a real coup in securing his services for the new Malaysia Super League season.

LWB: Theerathon Bunmathan (Thailand)


On the left flank, we had a difficult decision choosing the left-backs from both finalists. Up till the semi-finals, Theerathon appeared a shoo-in for the spot but he had a quiet game in the first leg against Malaysia, and Shaiful Esah had a blinder for Singapore in the knockout round.

However, after Saturday's final second leg, we've decided to give the young Thailand star the nod based on his overall performance.

The Buriram United man showed good energy, was never afraid to push forward to support his attackers and was capable in defence.

He also had the ability to beat his man and whip in dangerous crosses, and arguably possesses the most-dangerous left foot in the region at the moment.

CM: Mustafic Fahrudin (Singapore)


Before the tournament got underway, the one midfielder that everyone believed would be pivotal for Singapore was Hariss Harun, but his campaign ended prematurely when he picked up an injury against Indonesia.

In his absence, Isa Halim came in and did a good job but the one that really stepped up to the plate was Mustafic, who took it upon himself to be the driving force in the middle of the park.

The 31-year-old bullied opponents into giving up possession at times, but also distributed the ball well and was the instigator of several moves that led to Singapore goals at crucial points.

CM: Adul Lahsoh (Thailand)


It is unlikely many outside Thailand knew who Adul was before the War Elephants' first Group A game against Philippines, although those who watched him play for Chonburi in the AFC Cup earlier this year would have been aware of his quality.

Nonetheless, he became one of the most-talked about players during the group stages and his tireless and selfless displays set the tone for his side to play their free-flowing passing game.

At times, Adul appeared to win the ball with consummate ease and although he's not known for his scoring prowess, he showed his penchant for the big stage by scoring in the final first leg against the Lions.

RF: Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (Malaysia)


Overall, it was a disappointing campaign for defending champions Harimau Malaya as they toiled their way out of the group stage, before being eliminated by Thailand in the last four.

Still, there were some positives for them to take from the tournament, one of which being the emergence of promising youngsters in Mahalli Jasuli, Fadhli Shas and Wan Zack Haikal.

Another bright spark for Malaysia was Norshahrul, who may have only scored once all competition long, but was the catalyst for his side in the attacking third.

At times, opposition defenders just had no answer for the new Darul Takzim signing and, with Safee Sali firing blanks, the 26-year-old really stepped up as Malaysia's main man up front.

LF: Shahril Ishak (Singapore)


Although Baihakki probably won the cup for Singapore with his solid defending in the knockout round, the Lions would not have even made it out of Group B had it not been for the goals of their captain.

Shahril got them off to a dream start with a clinical brace against Malaysia, before dragging them across the line in their final group games against Laos, when his double helped them turn a two-goal deficit into a 4-3 win.

Even though he failed to find the back of the net after that, he always tried his hardest to create an opening and was a useful outlet given his ability to hold up the ball and draw a foul from his opponent.

CF: Teerasil Dangda (Thailand)


Based on his displays in the competition, it's easy to see why many believe Teerasil is good enough to ply his trade in Europe.

The 24-year-old is blessed with pace, strength, aerial ability and a whole bag of tricks, but more importantly, he just knows how to find the back of the net.

His hat-trick against Myanmar showed how deadly he is in front of goal, while his header in the 1-1 semi-final first leg draw in Malaysia proved he is capable of creating something out of nothing.

It's been awhile since the Thais produced a striker that could really captivate the crowd in the vein of Kiatisuk Senamuang, but Teerasil is certainly on the right track.

Substitutes

GK: Eduard Sacapano (Philippines)

Given Sacapano was probably the Azkals' third-choice goalkeeper for most of the year, many could have been forgiven for thinking Philippines were in trouble after Neil Etheridge was ineligible for selection, while Roland Muller was only available in the knockout round.

These fears were duly dismissed when Sacapano put in a brilliant performance in a warm-up friendly against Singapore, and he continued his form all tournament long with a series of assured displays.

FB: Novan Setyo Sasongko (Indonesia)

Novan was one of the few Merah Putih players who could return to Indonesia with his head held high after a disappointing Group B campaign.

The 23-year-old was steady in defence and had to bail out his error-prone centre-backs on several occasions.

CB: Fadhli Shas (Malaysia)

Even though Fadhli's campaign ended in disappointment as he was harshly sent off in the semi-final second leg against Thailand, overall he can look back at his performances with pride.

In the 3-0 loss to Singapore, he appeared to be the only defender who knew what he was doing, and he had to be alert given Aidil Zafuan's careless ways.

CM: Isa Halim (Singapore)

Isa may only have been brought in to the Singapore lineup in the semi-finals, and there are many midfielders who would pip him to a place in our starting XI.

But given this is a place on the bench, we see no better player to have in reserve than Isa, who is guaranteed to give 100% every time he takes to the field.

The combative midfielder may not have the same kind of playmaking abilities as Mustafic, but his sheer determination means he is a useful player to bring on when the game needs changing, both in an attacking and defensive way.

WG: Wan Zack Haikal (Malaysia)

A substitute's role is always perfect for up-and-coming players who are very capable of coming on and causing real havoc with their speed and energy, and especially for the role of winger, there were two standout candidates in Wan Zack and Indonesia's Andik Vermansah.

In the end, we opted for the Malaysian youngster purely because he was more consistent and there was more substance to his game.

Despite playing in the region's most-prestigious tournament, Wan Zack was not overawed by the occasion and actually led the way for some of his more-experienced team-mates.

AM: Kyi Lin (Myanmar)

His brilliant displays in qualification may have given the rest of Southeast Asia a taste of what was to come, but surely no one could have predicted to kind of impact Kyi Lin was to make in Myanmar's ultimately unsuccessful Group A campaign.

He made Vietnam captain Nguyen Minh Duc look like a rookie in their opening game, before being a thorn in the flesh of Thailand and Philippines, even though both sides ultimately saw off the White Angels.

ST: Khampheng Sayavutthi (Laos)

Joining Thailand's Kirati Keowsumbat and Singapore forward Khairul Amri as the tournament's joint-third highest scorer on three goals is Khampheng Sayavutthi, who showed why he's one of the few Laotians to have earned a move abroad.

Plying his trade in the Thai lower league has certainly done him good given he had no problems dealing with the physical defenders from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

His physique made it tremendously difficult to win the ball off him, but the 26-year-old also showed excellent poise in the box.


Let us know who your best eleven players of the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup were in the comments section below!



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