Printer Friendly and PDF

Kuala Lumpur: A thriller is on the cards in the Kuala Lumpur 2017 SEA Games men's football final at the Shah Alam Stadium on Tuesday.

Reigning champions Thailand face Malaysia, who will be backed by 70,000 fans in the stands and millions across the nation, in the marquee event of the 2017 SEA Games.

Malaysia are on a high, having progressed to the final with a 100 percent record, and will feel that the gold medal should be won to add to their most recent triumphs - in 2009 and 2011.

Those wins were unexpected but Malaysia expects on Tuesday and coach Ong Kim Swee will have to get the best of out his players for one final push.

Ong has the experience, having guided Malaysia to the 2011 gold medal, and has managed to get his players to deliver in this edition despite the huge pressure the team have been under since the first match against Brunei.

The Malaysian coach has been willing to take risks in order to get results - as shown by the impact striker N. Thanabalan has had for his team.

Thanabalan was not fielded for the Brunei match as Ong wanted to save the player, who had just recovered from a knee injury, but the coach's hand was forced in the tie against Singapore.

Malaysia were down 1-0 at the break and Ong sent on Nor Azam Abdul Azih and Thanabalan and their impact was sensational as they scored the goals that gave Malaysia a 2-1 win.

There has been no stopping Thanabalan since then as he hit a brace in the 3-1 win over Myanmar and struck late in the 1-0 triumph over Indonesia in Saturday's semi-final.

While Thanabalan has captured the imagination of Malaysian fans, it is team work which has carried them into the final as every component has played its role.

Ong will need that to happen once again as Thailand are the undisputed kings of ASEAN football.

“My players are focused and ready. Thailand are one of the best teams in this region.

“They are strong in all departments, but we have the strategies to stop them," said Ong, whose one drawback is the fact that injured striker S. Kumaahran is unlikely to feature with Jafri Firdaus Chew likely to replace him.

Stopping Thailand will indeed require a massive effort as Worrawoot Srimaka's team have grown in strength after an indifferent start to their bid for a 16th SEA Games gold medal.

The fact that Thailand overcome Myanmar and Vietnam en route to taking their customary place in the final would have been noted by the Malaysians.

Myanmar and Vietnam had been the early pacesetters in the SEA Games but both came unstuck against Thailand and this is a warning to Malaysia that they can expect a fight to the end.

Thailand have won SEA Games gold on Malaysian soil before - beating them 1-0 in the 2001 final - and they are unlikely to be awed by the partisan support.

If anything, Thailand seem to thrive under pressure and the Class of 2017 - led by captain Chenrop Samphaodi - will be determined to emulate the successful teams of the yesteryears.

It will definitely be a fiesta of football at the Shah Alam Stadium on Tuesday.


Fixtures

August 29
Final: Malaysia vs Thailand (Shah Alam Stadium)
Bronze Play-off: Indonesia vs Myanmar (Selayang Stadium)

Road to Final 
Malaysia 
Group Stage 
bt Brunei 2-1 
bt Singapore 2-1
bt Myanmar 3-1
bt Laos 3-1

Semi-final
bt Indonesia 1-0 

Thailand 
Group Stage 

drew Indonesia 1-1 
bt Timor-Leste
bt Cambodia 3-0
bt Philippines 2-0
bt Vietnam 3-0 

Semi-final
bt Myanmar 1-0


Previous Meetings (Final only)

1975    (Bangkok) Thailand 3-1 Malaysia

1977    (KL): Malaysia 2-0 Thailand

1981    (Manila): Thailand 2-1 Malaysia

2001    (KL): Thailand 1-0 Malaysia

Photos: MASOC 

randomness