Hassan Sunny: Second-string Thailand still a Suzuki Cup frontrunner
Singapore goalkeeper Hassan Sunny believes Thailand will still be the team to beat at the year-end Suzuki Cup, despite talks of the reigning champions preferring to concentrate on their World Cup qualifying campaign.
I am not going to lie, Thailand are the best in Southeast Asia at the moment
The War Elephants are in the final round of the World Cup qualifiers and they will be playing various matches prior to the Suzuki Cup, to be held in Myanmar and the Philippines.
But Hassan still insisted that Thailand will be the favourites for the tournament, regardless of who they pick for their final 23-man squad.
“I have answered that a few times, Thai media has been asking me that question a lot,” Hassan told FourFourTwo.
“But like what I told them, Thailand have a big pool of strong players. Even though a bulk of them are now in Saudi Arabia (for this week's World Cup qualifying match), there are so many players in Thailand that can even be in that squad.
“So even if they send a second team to the Suzuki Cup, they might not be as strong as the first team, but they can compete."
Behind the Thais, Hassan believes Vietnam are the closest challengers and are slowly closing the gap. The goalkeeper had a first-hand experience at the AYA Bank Cup in June, where Singapore lost 3-1 after extra-time to the Vietnamese.
“I am not going to lie, Thailand are the best in Southeast Asia at the moment,” the Army United custodian asserted.
“There's a reason why they are in the World Cup Qualifiers and I wish them all the best. I hope they will make Southeast Asia proud.
“But Vietnam, who we played in the tournament in Myanmar, we saw they had a good team as well so I think Vietnam are the second favourites for the Suzuki Cup.”
Singapore will next face Bahrain in an international friendly on Thursday after a spate of disappointing results, which included a 2-1 loss to Cambodia, the Republic’s first against them since 1972.
But Hassan stressed there are no easy games now at the Southeast Asian level, even if Singapore were missing several regulars including himself, defender Baihakki Khaizan and star Safuwan Baharudin.
“Friendly matches are friendly, but Sundram took them seriously," he said. "Of course if you come into a game with less than 100 per cent, it's something you don't want.
“They played against Cambodia in their home ground and it's quite difficult. When we played in the Asian qualifiers (Singapore won 2-1), we took a while to score so it really isn't surprising we had difficulties facing them.”
He added: “Playing against Middle-Eastern teams is never easy – we know they are strong but we are going to go there and try our best.
"We have players like Shahril and Bai who can help the team now.”