Courtesy: Khaleej TimesClassy Thais hold edge over Japan31 May 2012Thailand will be the favourites in today’s AFC Futsal Championship final
DUBAI — His team may have played efficient futsal at the AFC Fustal Championship here in Dubai, but Japan coach Miguel Rodrigo still prefers his team to be considered as the underdogs. Rodrigo says that Thailand will be the favourites when the two teams lock horns for the title at Al Wasl Stadium in Dubai on Friday, a press release from AFC said.
Rodrigo is not quite wrong. After a reasonably strong showing in the group phase Japan’s form over the knockout stage has been less than impressive, with poor finishing restricting them to a nervous 1-0 win over Kyrgyzstan and then experiencing the same problem against Australia, before finally capitalising on the tiring Futsalroos to score three unanswered goals in the last 10 minutes.
Thailand, on the other hand, have, as Rodrigo admits, have played some exciting and entertaining futsal, with their 5-4 extra-time victory over defending champions Iran easily the best match of the tournament so far.
“They play spectacular futsal,” admitted the Spaniard following Japan’s win over Australia, in a match Rodrigo assessed as standing in stark contrast to Thailand’s epic encounter with Iran.
“The first semi-final was pure futsal and a very attractive game. That game shows why futsal is precious and deserves to be promoted.
“In Spain and Brazil there are regularly games like that and that is why you get 3000 spectators at the gymnasium.
“In the final Thailand are the favourites as they beat Iran and are playing very well and if we are to beat them then we need to improve vastly.
“Logically thinking nobody would have wanted to play Iran in the final. But because Thailand beat them then they are strong psychologically, technically and tactically.”
Iran went into their semi-final having scored an impressive 37 goals and conceded just four (including three to Uzbekistan in the quarter-final) to fully justify their billing as tournament favourites.
As such most were expecting a victory for the Iranians that would keep them on course to win their tenth title in 12 tournaments.
Rodrigo, however, was well aware that an upset in Wednesday’s match at the Al Wasl Stadium was a very real possibility.
“They have beaten Iran in friendlies a few times in the past couple of years and their head coach Victor Hermans has inspired the team with his style.
“Maybe before the game nobody expected them to beat Iran but if we look at the Champions League everybody was anticipating a Barcelona versus Real Madrid final but it didn’t happen and that is the beauty of sport.”
Australia will take on Iran in the bronze medal match.Top-scorer’s race
As many as five players are in the race to clinch the Top Scorer award at the AFC Futsal Championship. The grand finale of the tournament will be held at Al Wasl Stadium in Dubai on Friday.
Ali Hassanzadeh of Iran and Thailand’s Suphawut Thueanklang, who hit a hat-trick in his team’s epic extra-time win over the defending champions in Wednesday’s semi-final, are currently the leading the top-scorer’s race with seven goals each in the tourney.
However, they are closely followed by three others who are just a goal behind.
In the chasing pack are Japan’s Rafael Henmi, whose strike against Australia maintained his record of having scored in every match at the competition, and Hassanzadeh’s teammates Hossein Tayebi and Asian futsal legend Vahid Shamsaee.
Shamsaee’s double in the narrow defeat to Thailand put the game’s all-time top international goalscorer back in contention for the award and if he can significantly add to his tally in Friday’s third-place play off against Australia then he will become the AFC Futsal Championship’s top scorer for the eighth time.
Posted by Luca Ranocchiari