AFF Suzuki Cup 2018: Why Norshahrul, and not Adisak, is the competition’s best striker

Heading into the semifinals of the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup, all eyes were on Thailand hitman Adisak Kraisorn and whether he could continue his record-breaking feats. However, in the space of sixty seconds, Adisak went from hero to villain, sparking a debate on whether he is indeed the best striker in the competition. 

Here, FOX Sports Asia looks at why Malaysia’s talisman Norshahrul Idlan, and not Adisak, is the best striker in the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup.

Contrasting semifinal performances

Top strikers are expected to come good on the big stage – when their team needs them the most. After all, the true strength of character is on show only under severe adversity.

Before the first leg of their semifinal against Malaysia, the War Elephants were overwhelming favourites to take home the trophy for a record sixth time, and there was no doubt as to who the best player in the competition was.

Adisak had netted eight times already and looked in menacing form. However, come crunch time, the 27-year-old struggled to lift his game, looking like a shadow of the player he was in previous games.

In contrast, Norshahrul stepped up when his team needed him the most. In the crucial second leg at the Rajamangala Stadium, with the chips down, it was the Malaysian striker’s instinctive effort that gave Harimau Malaya their equaliser for the second time – and their second away goal – which ultimately proved enough to propel them into the final.

Adisak, on the other hand, crumbled under the pressure. With the weight of an entire nation on his shoulders, the Thai striker skied his penalty, sending his side crashing out of the competition.

Impact of goals

Another aspect that shows how Norhshahrul has indeed trumped Adisak in the competition is in terms of the impact of their goals scored.

Remove the Malaysian’s goals, and they cost his side a whopping six points. The Pahang forward scored the winner against Laos, the second goal against Cambodia which broke the deadlock, and also the third in the same game. Whilst he also netted the opener against Myanmar, that can be discounted for the fact that skipper Zaquan Adha netted twice after him, which would have yielded a win regardless.

His goal in the second leg of the semifinal also earned them progression to the final.

Coming to Adisak, while his goals ensured dominant victories, none of them really added worth in terms of points.

His goals against Singapore and Indonesia were scored when Thailand were already in the lead. While one might argue that his six against Timor-Leste won the game for his side single-handedly, Supachai Jaided too netted once, which would have yielded a victory in any case.

While Norshahrul added six points to his team’s tally through his goals, effectively earning them a semifinal spot and then netting in the semifinal to earn a finals berth, Adisak failed to contribute in terms of actual points.

Quality of opposition

The numbers do work in Adisak’s favour. Eight goals in six games is no mean feat. His conversion rate is also among the best, having netted eight times from his 10 shots on target.

However, remove the six goals against Timor-Leste – the whipping boys of the competition – and things do not look so rosy anymore. Without his record-breaking goal-tally against Timor, Adisak’s numbers read two goals from five games; not so impressive.

Norshahrul, on the other hand, has displayed much more consistency, with goals against all calibers of opposition.

He bagged goals against Cambodia and Laos, two teams capable of punching above their weight, and also against Myanmar in a do-or-die encounter.  While he misfired against Vietnam, he more than made up for it with his semifinal goal against Thailand, the pre-tournament favorites, which sent Malaysia into the final.