Su­per Thais seek record fifth Suzuki Cup

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

MANILA: Thai­land will seek to un­der­line their supremacy in South­east Asian foot­ball by re­tain­ing the Suzuki Cup, a tour­na­ment that draws pas­sion­ate sup­port and also close scru­tiny for pos­si­ble match-fix­ing.

The War Ele­phants are South­east Asia’s last team stand­ing in qual­i­fy­ing for the 2018 World Cup, and they won new ad­mir­ers in last week’s 2-2 draw with Asian cham­pi­ons Aus­tralia. Thai­land’s smooth-pass­ing, at­tack­minded team have con­tested the last two Suzuki Cup fi­nals and they are bid­ding to be­come the first coun­try to win the com­pe­ti­tion five times. But their coach Ki­atisuk “Zico” Se­na­muang said they would not be liv­ing on past glo­ries when they open the tour­na­ment against In­done­sia to­day.

“Sta­tis­tics are in the past, we are look­ing at the present,” the for­mer Thai­land striker told re­porters in Manila. “Ev­ery team is strong, we would pre­fer to only fo­cus on our team. We want to be cham­pi­ons but we will fo­cus on the group stage first,” added Ki­atisuk.

Vic­tory in the bi­en­nial tour­na­ment, split be­tween Manila and Yan­gon, would make Thai­land the first coun­try to lift the tro­phy five times. This year, Thai­land also made it to the Asian U23 fi­nal, while their women’s team reached the World Cup for the first time.

Thai­land’s star man is Teerasil Dangda, who top-scored at the 2008 and 2012 Suzuki Cups but missed their 2014 vic­tory dur­ing his stint with La Liga club Alme­ria.

“(Twice) be­ing the top scorer of the tour­na­ment was mean­ing­less be­cause we got noth­ing from it,” said Teerasil, who bagged both of Thai­land’s goals last week against Aus­tralia. “I would pre­fer to win the tour­na­ment than be the top-scorer. I was dis­ap­pointed not to have been in the squad last time.” Thai­land also play Sin­ga­pore and co­hosts the Philip­pines in Group A, while Myan­mar, Cam­bo­dia, Malaysia and Viet­nam are in Yan­gon-based Group B. South­east Asian foot­ball at­tracts enor­mous sup­port but it has fre­quently been plagued by match-fix­ing, as seen by the sus­pen­sion of four Laos in­ter­na­tion­als ear­lier this month. Anti-cor­rup­tion agency Spor­tradar will over­see the com­pe­ti­tion, mon­i­tor­ing hun­dreds of book­ies for un­usual bet­ting pat­terns. “Spor­tradar’s fraud de­tec­tion sys­tem will no­tify the AFF (ASEAN Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion) if there are any sus­pi­cious bet­ting pat­terns on any of the 12 group games or the six games in the knock-out stages,” Spor­tradar said last week.

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