Just the beginning for Kiatisuk's kids


Just the beginning for Kiatisuk's kids


There is no doubt youth prevailed over experience in the final of this year's AFF Suzuki Cup.

A young Thai team triumphed 4-3 on aggregate over Malaysia but only just, thanks to a spirited and sensational fightback near the end of the second leg in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday night.

Thailand won their home leg in Bangkok 2-0 but looked to have surprisingly lost the title in Kuala Lumpur when their Malaysian opponents, packed with more senior players, went 3-0 up with just half an hour remaining.

Midfielder and former captain Safiq Rahim netted twice from dead ball situations with a headed goal from striker Indra Putra Mahayuddin sandwiched in between.

But Charyl Chappuis nabbed a precious away goal for the War Elephants in the 82nd minute and player of the tournament Chanathip Songkrasin sealed victory for Thailand with a fine left-foot strike on the counter-attack three minutes from time.

Thailand coach Kiatisuk Senamuang's plan of using young players worked and more importantly has allowed him to mould a squad that could potentially dominate for years.

He said: "I want to get more experience for my players as next year we have three events, the SEA Games, Olympic and World Cup qualifiers."

The former striker, who won the AFF Suzuki Cup three times as a player and is the first person to claim the trophy as a player and coach, has grand plans.

Referring to the development of football in South-East Asia, he said: "I want to improve together (with other teams) in this region - we must play an open game. I want to see South-East Asian teams go to the AFC Asian Cup. I talked to (Malaysia coach) Dollah Salleh about this. This is my target. AFF Suzuki Cup is great but we need to go further."

The legendary Thai, nicknamed "Zico" during his prolific scoring days, also said he felt the strain of being a coach.

"Now I become coach and I can't get to play, just watch. When I lose I get a headache. Today you see my face, I lose two years," he joked after Saturday's final.

His Thai team have now won the AFF Suzuki Cup for a record fourth time along with Singapore but it is the first time Thailand have triumphed since 2002.

Dollah's side came so close to victory but he was content with the outcome of the AFF Suzuki Cup as he only had the players together for a short period.

"I got only one month plus this tournament with players," he said. "With this limited preparation time that's why I chose senior players."

Like Kiatisuk, he will focus on youth to build a team that can again compete at the top level.

He said: "Most probably, we will choose youngsters next time. But I still need senior players to guide the youngsters."

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