Thailand and Indonesia will be looking to gain the upper hand on Wednesday evening when they clash in the first leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup final in Bogor.
Reigning champions Thailand have been in impeccable form throughout the tournament and are yet to be defeated. They have only conceded two goals in so far, and that was in the 4-2 win over tonight’s opponents Indonesia in the opening game on November 19.
The War Elephants cruised through the rest of their group stage matches before demolishing co-hosts Myanmar 6-0 on aggregate in the semi-finals.
With his side in fine form ahead of the final, Thailand coach Kiatisuk Senamuang insisted that his team is ready to make history as they are within touching distance of winning a record-breaking fifth AFF Suzuki Cup.
“Everyone in the team is ready to play,” he said. “Tomorrow night’s game will be a great celebration of football for Southeast Asia and I hope the fans will be able to enjoy it.”
Despite their confidence, Kiatisuk warned that Thailand cannot afford to underestimate Indonesia, as the Garudas have defied the odds to make it to the final.
“It is the key match for us. We have great respect for the Indonesian side who will be very hard to beat here in Bogor,” he said. “We know how dangerous Indonesia can be, we have seen what they can do. They did so well to beat Vietnam in the semi-final.”
Indonesia’s road to the semi-finals was less simple, as they only qualified after a nail-biting 2-1 win in their final group game against Singapore.
Then against Vietnam in the semifinal, a fearless Indonesia battled hard and wound up claiming a shock 4-3 aggregate win.
Having reached their first final since 2010, they now have the chance to secure their first-ever AFF Suzuki Cup title. Coach Alfred Riedl said that his side are determined to taste glory after missing out in the final in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2010.
“We are playing the number one team in Southeast Asia so we know it is going to be very difficult, but we want to make history and win this for the first time,” he said. “We have the great advantage of playing in front of our wonderful fans tomorrow and this will give us a huge lift.”
When asked what the secret behind Indonesia’s success in the tournament was, Riedl said: “We had to make a lot of tactical changes and that has been the key that allowed us to play so well in the tournament. But ultimately the key has been playing as a team, and our spirit has been incredible.”
Since their opening night loss to Thailand, Indonesia have gone undefeated, and for Riedl, this shows just how badly his players want to win the competition.
“We absolutely came to win the tournament and show what we are capable of,” he said.