Chanathip dreams of WC; Chappuis keeps promise for Thailand
Charyl Chappuis was elated to have delivered on his promise to Thailand while Chanathip Songkrasin now dreams of playing in the FIFA World Cup.
Having helped Thailand win their first AFF title in a dozen years, two of Thailand's young heroes reflected on the 4-3 aggregate victory over Malaysia in the Suzuki Cup final, despite losing the second leg 3-2 in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday night.
The Malaysians raced to a 3-0 lead at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil -- 3-2 on aggregate -- only to be undone by goals from Chappuis and Chanathip in the last eight minutes.
The win gave Thailand their fourth ASEAN crown to join Singapore as record-holders with most titles. The War Elephants had to endure a 12-year wait to break their drought, having won their three other titles in 1996, 2000 and 2002.
Chanathip was named as the tournament's Most Valuable Player. It came as little surprise after a breakthrough tournament in which he provided two goals and two assists and was one of the most exciting attackers in the Singapore-based Group B.
"I want to thank every player on the Thai team. They made me look good and I wouldn't have been able to do it without them." said the man dubbed 'Messi Jay'. "In future, I want to move to the K-League or J-League because they are very professional. I also have a dream to qualify for the World Cup some day."
As for his teammate Chappuis, the poster boy of ASEAN football was just glad to have kept his promise to the country.
Speaking to ESPN FC, he said: "I said in my interview with you before the game that I want to bring the Cup back to Thailand. So it was special when I scored that goal late in the game. This is my second title with Thailand in two years [Thailand won the 2013 SEA Games gold medal] but in the end, we are one team so this is all about the team. We win together for Thailand."
Despite Thailand having 53% of possession in the final, Malaysia were the better side in the opening half. Kiatisuk's youngsters were struggling to cope with the home team's aggression and high-pressing game. But the Swiss-born midfielder claimed that the Thai players never let their heads dropped and were just waiting for the right moment to get back into the match.
"Of course. We are playing away and when we went 3-0 down, it was a difficult situation. We are a young team, we don't have many experienced players but we told ourselves that all we needed was one goal. The team believed in ourselves and we know we can play football so in the end, we are happy with the result."
The 82nd minute goal from the Suphanburi midfielder was from a rebound of Sarach Yooyen's curling free-kick that Farizal Marlias palmed away. With Chappuis given the responsibility for most of Thailand's dead-ball situations during the tournament, the tactical move to have Sarach taking control on that instance left many fans at the stadium puzzled.
"Normally I am the one taking the free-kicks but 10 minutes before that one, I took one and didn't work well so I left this one to my teammate [Sarach Yooyen] and where I was standing when I scored the goal, I normally don't stand there. I don't know, it was instinct. Like I was meant to be there." said the stylish playmaker.
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Having won a major junior title with Switzerland in 2009 as a defender, Chappuis rates his first Suzuki Cup title as one of the highlights of his short footballing career so far.
He added: "Yes, this is one of the biggest wins of my career along with the U-17 World Cup title I won with Switzerland. The crowd here was absolutely fantastic. I would say this is one of the best atmospheres along with the one at the U-17 World Cup against Nigeria and also our home games back in Bangkok. The crowd back home was rooting for us but over here, they were against us but this is what football is like we are just happy to win the title."
With that, the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup comes to an end. The next tournament is scheduled for 2016 where Philippines and Myanmar will serve as co-hosts.
ESPN FC editor Kelvin Leong is a former media officer for Singapore and ex-regional editor of ESPNSTAR.com. Twitter: @KelvinLeong29.