Schafer: Thailand not favourites in final

Thailand coach Winfried Schafer insists his side are not favourites when they meet Singapore in the final of the AFF Suzuki Cup.

Teerasil Dangda, Thailand

By Gabriel Tan in Singapore

Both sides are currently bidding to win Southeast Asia's top prize for a record fourth time and will first meet at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday, before playing the return encounter in Bangkok three days later.

Given the War Elephants have scored the most goals in the competition and also have the joint-best defensive record, and are also the side yet to taste defeat, many have installed them as strong favourites for the final.

Nonetheless, speaking at Tuesday's pre-match press conference, Schafer was keen to stress Singapore had an equally good chance of attaining regional glory.

"No," he replied when asked if he felt his side were favourites. "We have two finals to play - one here and one in Bangkok.

"We are fully focused on tomorrow [Wednesday] and after that we'll talk about the match in Bangkok. Singapore have good players and we'll have to concentrate from the first minute to the 90th minute and be fighting all the way.

"I don't think we're favourites. I think the two best teams are in the final.

"I've watched some of Singapore's last few matches and they played very well. The matches were of a high level and it won't be easy for us."

In Teerasil Dangda and Datsakorn Thonglao, Schafer can call upon two of Southeast Asia's finest players who are capable of winning a match off their own boot.

And although plenty of the pre-match hype has been centred on how the Lions will keep the Thai duo at bay, the War Elephants boss believes every member of his side is equally important.

"We don't only have two players," he added. "We have 22 very good players.

"The most important thing for us is our team spirit and teamwork.

"Mui [Teerasil] is a fantastic striker and, for me, one of the best in Asia. Similarly, Ko [Datsakorn] is an intelligent player who is important to our team having a good passing game.

"But without the other players, nobody can play. It's not just down to two players - we have many good players and everybody is ready to fight."

Although Thailand already have three Suzuki Cup titles to their name, their last triumph came in 2002 and since then, they've finished as runners-up twice and were also handed embarassing group stage exits in 2004 and 2010.

Now just 180 minutes away from officially reclaiming their status as the region's top side, Schafer admits his players are determined to end a decade of suffering for their fans.

"I'm happy we're in the final now," the German said. "I wasn't sure what we could achieve when we had our first day of training on November 1.

"Considering our preparation [for the tournament] it's a surprise we are now here. We had no friendly matches and now we're here in the final.

"I have to thank my players and staff but we're not finished yet. We have to win and we want to win.

"I heard 180 fans are coming down for the game and it's not easy to travel from Thailand to Singapore by train or bus.

"We want to make the Thai people happy and I hope we can have a very good result tomorrow [Wednesday] for our people."

Before Schafer took charge of Thailand in 2011, he had a stint in charge of Bundesliga outfit Stuttgart and also led Cameroon to the Africa Cup of Nations in 2002.



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