Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thais still smarting from knockout blow by Malaysia in 2009

JAKARTA: Thailand, the undisputed kingpins of the SEA Games football competition will never forget or forgive Ahmad Fakri Saarani.

The Thais, who were gunning for their ninth consecutive title in Laos 2009, crashed out in the group stage after losing 2-1 to Malaysia who went on to snatch the gold. Fakri was the man who delivered the killer blow with the winning goal that brought Thailand’s glorious run to a grinding halt.

That moment is still fresh in Fakri’s mind as Malaysia came from behind to break Thai hearts.
“It was a moment of brilliance from striker Norshahrul (Idlan Talaha) who fed me the ball after working the flank and the rest is history,” recalled Fakri.

Dangerman: Malaysia’s Ahmad Fakri Saarani destroyed Thailand’s hopes in the last Games. The Thais will be wary of him today.
The Thais had gone ahead from a free-kick in the 75th minute but Mohd Nasriq Baharom levelled in the 81st before Fakri buried the winner two minutes into stoppage time.

Malaysia, who struggled to an unconvincing 0-0 draw in their opening match against Singapore on Monday, will be looking to raise the spirit of 2009 in their do-or-die Group A clash with Thailand today.

A win is a must if they are to have a realistic chance of advancing to the semi-finals. Hosts Indonesia look certain of grabbing one of the two slots from the group after their crushing 6-0 win over Cambodia.
Fakri, one of five players from 2009 in the team together with skipper Baddrol Bakhtiar, Mohd Asraruddin Putra, Muslim Ahmad and Mohd Fadhli Shas, thinks they can do it again.

“The standards of the teams are about the same at Under-23 level. We have every chance of besting the Thais if we raise our game and stay committed,” he said.

For the Thais, that defeat in Vientiane still rankles as it was the first time in 36 years that they had failed to reach the semi-finals. The team came in for a whole lot of stick on their return home and nothing would please them more than denying Malaysia a place in the last four.

It will be Thailand’s opening match so there is no telling how good they really are. But vengeance is a great motivator and Malaysia do not look to have their football wits about them.

The Thais are determined not to return home empty handed again as that would be truly catastrophic.
Coach Prapol Pongpanich knows a win would put Malaysia out and nothing would be sweeter.

“We have a tradition to uphold and beating Malaysia will go some way towards repairing the humiliation we suffered two years ago,” he said.

Defender Sujarit Jantakol, Ukrit Wongmeena and Theerathon Bunmathan are the three survivors from the 2009 squad and they too have pledged to get even today.

“I was a member of the team that lost and I still feel the pain of that elimination,” said Sujarit. “We must make amends.”

National Under-23 coach Ong Kim Swee will be hardpressed to get a positive result based on the insipid performance against Singapore. His strike force was a let down and only skipper Baddrol was a threat.
Syahrul Azwari Ibrahim and A. Thamil Arasu will have to buck up if Malaysia are to even bother the Thais.
Malaysia’s remaining fixtures are against Cambodia on Nov 13 and hosts Indonesia on Nov 17.

Meanwhile, surprise package Timor Leste, set the pace in Group B with six points from wins over Brunei (2-1) and the Philippines (2-1). Favourites Vietnam have four points after defeating the Philippines (3-1) and collecting a point in their goalless draw with Myanmar.


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