Schafer confident of Thailand comeback


Singapore – Despite watching his side suffer a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Singapore in the first leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup final on Wednesday, Thailand coach Winfried Schafer still believes that they can overcome the two-goal deficit when the return match takes place in Bangkok on Saturday.

Entering the final, Thailand were tipped as favourites to win the competition for a fourth time but they were swept aside at the Jalan Besar Stadium by a Fahrudin Mustafic penalty, an accomplished finish by Khairul Amri shortly after Adul Lahso’s equaliser and a stoppage-time strike by Baihakki Khaizan.

No team has managed to overcome any sort of deficit in the final to win the AFF Suzuki Cup but Schafer is confident that his team can yet turn things around at the Supachalasai Stadium.

“For me this result is not a problem because we still have a second match,” said the German. “We will play in Bangkok and I hope that the stadium will be full and we can change the course of this match. What is important is that we score and I am sure that we can turn things around.

“It will be a game played on another field and we know now that the long balls from Singapore will cause us problems. We have to put pressure on their defenders and try to change the match.”

To get back into the tie, Schafer knows that his players will need to correct the problems that allowed the Lions to breach their defence three times in 90 minutes after they had conceded only three goals in their previous five matches in the competition.

“I saw the mistakes that were made for the first goal, the second goal and then the third goal. Now we have to watch the DVD and discuss all the problems that we had, go out and train and maybe make things better for the second leg,” he said.

“It is important now that the players are focussed. We still have a second match in Bangkok and maybe we can change the match. The players can get back up and I have confidence that we can change things in the second leg.

“For the first goal, we gave them a chance to cross the ball. That’s a problem because we should have tried to press their player on the right. It is clear that (Aleksandar) Duric is an experienced player and he knows what he has to do in that part of the penalty area. He got in front of Dai (Piyaphon Buntao) and it was a penalty.

“For the second goal, the long ball came in and Ball (Jakkapan Pornsai) went to the wrong player, Duric, and the next thing we knew the score was 2-1.

“The third goal was a bit unlucky for us. The ball came from the corner and it hit Chon (Chonlatit Jantakam) on the leg and it came back out in front of goal for them to score.

“You need luck because if you don’t have luck, you cannot win the match. Singapore had luck today but I hope that we have luck in Bangkok.”

Having seen his side go largely injury-free for much of the competition, Schafer may now have to contend with the absence for the second leg of his captain Panupong Wongsa who had to be taken off on a stretcher in the first half.

“We had a problem with an injury to our best defender Mai (Panupong Wongsa) who had to come off although his replacement Oat (Nataporn Phanrit) also plays well in that position,” said the Thai boss.

“I’m not too sure about the extent of the injuries now. I don’t know about the condition of Mai but some of the other players have some muscle problems.

“It is clear that the Thai season was long and they have played many matches now. I cannot tell you about their condition right now. Maybe on the morning of the 22nd, I can give you a better idea of which players are injured.”

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