Thailand broke down determined Myanmar 3-0 to successfully defend their Southeast Asian (SEA)Games crown and win their 15th title overall in Singapore on Monday.
Three second-half goals earned a deserved win for Thailand, who had to persevere against inspired goalkeeper Phyo Kyaw Zin before they finally subdued their neighbours and rivals.
A pro-Myanmar crowd of 31,143, packed with foreign workers from the country and watched by armed police with dogs, created a sizzling atmosphere at the National Stadium.
Coach Choketawee Promrut said his team, who scored 24 goals and only conceded one in their run of seven wins, were the best of all the Thai teams to claim SEA Games gold.
But he said his players, who held aloft a portrait of Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej at the final whistle, would not be hitting the beers in celebration.
“Orange juice,” he said firmly when asked what his players would be drinking, adding that a change in tactics at half-time helped open up Myanmar.
“Before the second half in the dressing room, we talked about playing wide and it worked better,” said the coach.
Thailand started confidently and moved the ball slickly but their hopes of an early lead were dashed by a combination of wayward finishing and last-ditch defending.
Nurul Sriyankem half-volleyed wide, missed a spectacular shot from distance and fired a free-kick straight at Phyo Kyaw Zin as the Thais were frustrated.
Thitiphan Puangjan should have done better with a hanging header, and then was again denied by Phyo Kyaw Zin following some Chanathip “Messi Jay” Songkrasin trickery.
Thailand’s mini-Messi, just 1.57m (5 feet 7 inches) tall, should have scored on the stroke of half-time but his shot was also brilliantly saved by the Myanmar keeper.
– ‘Missed our chance’ –
After half-time, Phyo Kyaw Zin outdid himself with a one-on-one stop from Chananan Pombubpha, but Myanmar ran out of lives minutes later.
A corner from the left rebounded to the feet of defender Tanaboon Kesarat and he made no mistake with a no-nonsense, net-bulging finish.
Phyo Kyaw Zin denied Chananan again from close range before the striker finally beat the goalkeeper for his fifth goal of the tournament on 64 minutes.
Substitute Pinyo Inpinit got Thailand’s third on 78 minutes and at the final whistle, the Thais paraded with the portrait of their king in the centre circle.
“We targeted gold but we missed our chance,” said Myanmar coach Kyi Lwin. “So I’m very sad for our fans and our country.”
Earlier Vietnam sent Indonesia crashing into the international football wilderness with a 5-0 drubbing in the bronze medal match.
Four first-half strikes, including a Vo Huy Toan brace, guaranteed an unhappy send-off for Indonesia, who now start an indefinite suspension from international competition.
Coach Aji Santoso said his team faced an uncertain future after the government ousted Indonesia’s troubled football body, prompting a FIFA ban for political interference.
“I think it’s had an impact on the mentality of the players,” he said. “I think that’s normal, because after the SEA Games they don’t know what they will do, because Indonesian football is frozen already.” – Agence France-Presse