AFF Suzuki Cup final: The Goal Machine

As we head into the final of the AFF Suzuki Cup, one goal grabber has stood head and shoulders above the rest – tournament top scorer Teerasil Dangda of Thailand.

His pre-tournament comment that he would happily swap his goals for the trophy now seems a distant memory – and a bit of a ruse, as the Thai hitman has shown exactly why many rate him as the best striker in Southeast Asia. Teerasil has bagged five goals so far to take his career AFF Suzuki Cup record to 14, just three behind all-time record holder Noh Alam Shah of Singapore.

Perhaps inspired by his brace against Australia in Thailand’s World Cup qualifying draw just days before the start of the tournament, Teerasil announced his intention in the first game, netting a hat-trick as the War Elephants rallied to win after Indonesia had pulled themselves back into the game.

Although two of the goals were tap-ins, Teerasil demonstrated that he has a goal poacher’s instinct to go with his quality. The class was on display for his second goal, an unerring, arrow-like finish into the bottom corner after being set up on the edge of the box.

He didn’t score again in the group stage and was rested for the final group game, but made his mark on the semifinal, hitting a goal in each half as Thailand brushed aside Myanmar in the first leg in Yangon.

If his first goal was a beauty – collecting a short pass before firing into the roof of the net – then his second was sublime. Taking the ball midway inside the Myanmar half, he waited on the ball as a Myanmar defender rushed in, advanced forward before feinting past another defender and rolling the ball into the left hand corner with his supposedly weaker left foot. It was a goal that oozed class.

Already a two-time AFF golden boot winner, it’s hard to see him not picking up a third trophy, although his closest rival Indonesia’s Boaz Solossa (3 goals) could catch him with two goals in the final.

But that would mean Teerasil not scoring over the two legs, and who would bet against that?