Thailand are in a great position to land their sixth AFF Suzuki Cup title, after running out 4-0 winners from the first leg of their match against Indonesia. Goals from Supachok Sarachat, Bordin Phala and a brace from talisman Chanathip Songkrasin put Changsuek in the clear – though head coach Mano Polking insists that the tie is not over.
Here are five things we learned from the War Elephants most recent victory.
Mano’s bravery pays off!
Compared to Thailand’s semi-final opponent, Indonesia possesa different kind of threat. Under coach Shin Tae-Yong, the Garuda have adopted a high-intensity pressing game and are eager to play direct vertical passes in the attack. To counter Indonesia’s tactical style, Mano Polking made a brave decision and named a rotated XI. Weerathep Pomphan, Philip Roller, Bordin Phala, and Supachok Sarachart all came into the side for their quality to escape the opposition’s pressing. Weerathep, a midfielder by nature, even had to drop into central defence in place of Elias Dolah – a huge risk that surprised the whole nation. Still, it was a gamble Mano was willing to take because it allowed Thailand to maintain the ability to pass the ball out from the back. Right after the break, Thailand added the second goal of the night, which all began with Weerathep’s interception and progressive pass forward.
Super Supachok finally gets in gear
Supachok Sarachat came into this AFF Cup as one of Southeast Asia’s brightest talents, but on the back of a somewhat lacklustre domestic season by his high standards. He didn’t stand out in the early stages and struggled to make his mark on the competition. However, the Buriram star stepped up massively in yesterday’s match, showing flashes of brilliance and ending the game with a goal and an assist to his name. He also registered 3 key passes, 4 successful take-ons and 92% passing accuracy in his man of the match performance.
Strength in depth on display once again
Thailand’s squad depth has been a major asset for them during this tournament, and the fruits of the War Elephants rotation were once again apparent. Mano made a total of seven changes from the side which started the second leg against Vietnam, with some of the tournament’s top performers thus far like Teerathon, Sarach and Thanawat left out of the starting lineup. However, their absence was no cause for concern as their replacements stepped up admirably. Additionally, Philip Roller made his first start of the tournament and was a strong contender for man of the match with his excellent pair of assists.
Nullifying Indonesia’s strengths
Throughout this tournament, Pratama Arhan and Asnawi Mangkualam are two of the many standout stars for Indonesia, with the fullback pairing notching up six goal involvements to help the national side reach the final. Thailand regularly targeted the gaping hole at left-back left by Pratama Arhan’s absence. On the right side, Asnawi was pre-occupied with the Thai winger Bordin Phala, who took up a high and wide position, which limited his attacking contribution for Indonesia. By using their wide players in offensive mode, Thailand managed to nullify Indonesia’s strength from the flank on Wednesday night, and it’ll be interesting how Shin Tae-Yong switches things up in the second leg.
Great experience for young Indonesia side
It’s worth remembering that Indonesia has one of the youngest squads at the AFF Cup, as coach Shin Tae-Yong is hoping to blood in a new generation of talent. Five of the starting 11 in yesterday’s match were under the age of 23, and only one was over the age of 28. Despite the growing gap in the scoreline, the Indonesian youngsters kept their focus well and managed to continue playing in their style. Not once did the boys in red lash out in frustration – an excellent example of the squad’s commitment and faith in Shin Tae-Yong’s football ideology. If the Garuda continue down this path with coach Shin at the helm, it is clear that they will become a force in regional football in the years to come.