Singapore – Thailand coach Winfried Schafer has shunned the suggestion that his team are favourites to win this year’s AFF Suzuki Cup and admits that his team could face their toughest battle yet when they take on Singapore in the final.
The unbeaten Thais are fancied to end a 10-year drought in the competition after winning four of their five games en route to the final. But while he praised his team for their progress so far, Schafer knows that their job is far from done.
“I don’t think we are favourites,” said the German ahead of Wednesday’s first leg at the Jalan Besar Stadium. “We have two matches in the final – one game here and one in Bangkok. Our focus right now is on tomorrow’s game and then after that, we can talk about our game in Bangkok.
“It is a small stadium and Singapore have good players. We have to concentrate from the first to the 90th minute and we have to be focussed, fight for the ball and keep the play in front of us.”
Despite his team’s good run so far, Schafer said that he had not expected his team to progress so far given what he felt was a limited time to prepare for the region’s biggest football competition.
“I am happy that we are in the final now. I was not sure on November 1st when we had our first training session,” he said.
“If you look at the preparation time that we had for the tournament, I think it is surprise that we are here now. We didn’t have any friendly matches, only our training camp to prepare for the tournament and now we are in the first leg of the final.
“Thanks to the players and the staff for getting us here but we are not finished yet because we want to win the AFF Suzuki Cup.
“We worked very hard and concentrated in the past six weeks and I must compliment my team and my staff and all who helped us during this intense time.”
While much of the focus on his team in the build-up to the final has been on striker Teerasil Dangda, the leading scorer with five goals, and midfield dynamo Datsakorn Thonglao, Schafer insisted that his other players should not be overlooked.
“I don’t think that we have only two players, we have 22 very good players and the important thing in our team is the team spirit and teamwork,” he stated.
“Teerasil is a fantastic striker and for me, he is one of the best strikers in Asia while Datsakorn is a very intelligent player who makes some very good passes for our team. But without the other players, nobody can play. We have not only two good players but many good players who can fight together.”
Thailand overcame 2010 champions Malaysia 3-1 on aggregate in the semi-finals but Schafer feels that Singapore may pose an even sterner test as they look to regain the title of Asean’s top side.
“I think that the best two teams in the tournament are in the final,” he said.