Thailand vs Indonesia: Will Thais be denied record fifth Suzuki Cup title?

AFF Suzuki Cup | Rajamangala National Stadium (Bangkok) | Sat 17 Dec | 8pm 

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The final step on the path to glory

THE LOWDOWN

Indonesia Form

  • Indonesia 2-1 Thailand (Suzuki Cup)
  • Vietnam 2-2 Indonesia (Suzuki Cup)
  • Indonesia 2-1 Vietnam (Suzuki Cup)
  • Indonesia 2-1 Singapore (Suzuki Cup)
  • Philippines 2-2 Indonesia (Suzuki Cup)

Thailand Form

  • Indonesia 2-1 Thailand (Suzuki Cup)
  • Thailand 4-0 Myanmar (Suzuki Cup)
  • Myanmar 0-2 Thailand (Suzuki Cup)
  • Philippines 0-1 Thailand (Suzuki Cup)
  • Thailand 1-0 Singapore (Suzuki Cup)
 

After taking a first-half lead and looking reasonably comfortable for long stretches thereafter, favourites Thailand ended up conceding twice in the second half in Bogor midweek as Indonesia claimed a key first-leg advantage.

That fact that both of those goals had a tinge of good fortune about them should fill the hosts here with confidence that they can push on and finish the job.

The value of grabbing that away goal could also be a decisive factor in the final outcome, as a 1-0 win here will be enough to seal back-to-back titles for the Thais.

Indonesia entered the tournament with little expectation but have grown steadily match on match. After starting as a bright attacking force, they have now morphed into a ferocious, up-tempo, pressing machine that have largely nullified the goal-scoring threats of firstly, Vietnam, and now Thailand.

With that increased focus on their defensive duties though the Garudas’ overall attacking threat has dulled.

Aside from the pair of goals they scored in the first leg they posed precious little in terms of genuine chances, in a contest where they were both out-shot and ceded the majority of possession to Thailand.

That will matter for little if they can once again squeeze the space here and hold Thailand scoreless. By doing so, they can claim their maiden Suzuki title crown.

TEAM NEWS

The main decision for Thailand appears to be a tactical one with the possibility that the wingbacks Teerathon Bunmathan and Tristan Do could revert into fullbacks, squeezing one of the three central defenders out and opening a spot for the likes of Siroch Chatthong to join the starting side to give the attack a slightly different edge.

Indonesia have suffered a massive blow with the influential right winger Andik Vermansyah injured in the first leg. His replacement then, will most likely be Zulham Zamrun, in a team which is expected to be otherwise unchanged.

KEY BATTLE: Chanathip Songkrasin vs. Bayu Pradana/Manahati Lesthusen

The relatively young and inexperienced Indonesian central midfield pair of Pradana and Manahati have mirrored the evolution of the team more broadly in becoming more and more assured as the tournament has progressed.

In the 4-4-2 that Alfred Riedl has the team playing, and with two traditional wingers operating in the more advanced midfield roles, this pair have been crucial to establishing the initial triggers for Indonesia’s up-tempo, pressing game.

Thailand could shake things up tactically to play creator-in-chief Chanathip Songkrasin in a more liberated role as the fulcrum in a possible 4-2-3-1.

Past five meetings

  • Indonesia 2-1 Thailand (Suzuki Cup)
  • Thailand 4-2 Indonesia (Suzuki Cup)
  • Indonesia 2-1 Thailand (Suzuki Cup)
  • Thailand 2-1 Indonesia (Suzuki Cup)
  • Indonesia 0-1 Thailand (Suzuki Cup)
 

FACTS AND FIGURES

  • Wednesday’s first leg was just the second time in their past 13 Suzuki Cup matches that Thailand have not scored at least twice in a match.

  • Remarkably Indonesia has scored exactly two goals in each of their six matches in the tournament to date.

  • Conversely the Merah Putih are yet to keep a clean sheet at the current edition and haven’t held an opponent scoreless in their past Suzuki Cup ten matches.

  • This is Indonesia’s fifth final – they’ve lost each of the previous ones in 2000, 2002, 2004 & 2010.

  • Only twice before has a nation won back-to-back Suzuki Cup crowns with Thailand doing so in 2000 & 2002 and Singapore in 2004 & 2007.

THE COACHES

In round one of the tactical battle between the vastly experienced Alfred Riedl and the younger Kiatisuk it was a clear points decision to the Indonesian mentor.

The tireless harrying and closing down employed by his side forced Thailand to rush their passes, often misplacing them and frequently turning over possession.

Whether it’s a shift in tactics or personnel or both, Kiatisuk must find a way here to free his side from the stifling Indonesian pressing shackles.

PREDICITONS

Two well-organised teams going head to head in the cauldron that is the Rajamangala is the perfect finale to a very good Suzuki Cup.

Kiatisuk has promised that there will be an ‘intimidating’ atmosphere in the capital and that should help spur on a Thailand team which has been clearly the standout nation throughout the month-long tournament.

It seems highly likely that Thailand will score here and this could lead to an entertaining, free-flowing clash as both chase goals although it would still be something of a major surprise if it wasn’t Teerasil and co lifting the trophy late on Saturday evening.