Thailand football coach tips his players for bigger things
The future is bright for Thailand as Choketawee leads U-23s to another gold
MYANMAR U-23 0
THAILAND U-23 3
(Tanaboon Kesarat 54, Chananan Pombubpha 64, Pinyo Inpinit 78)
When the final whistle blew at the National Stadium last night, Thailand Under-23 coach Choketawee Promrut looked up to the heavens, muttered a few words in thanks, and then pumped both fists into the air.
His players, who had just outclassed a spirited Myanmar 3-0 in the football final, ran to the bench as one and within seconds, lofted him high into the air, as photographers raced to capture the moment.
A quiet and humble man, the celebration seemed apt, as the players showered the 40-year-old with the adoration he deserved.
Such was his modest nature that when asked which beverage he'd choose for the night's celebrations, he replied: "Orange juice."
His SEA Games adventure had come full circle here, following the gold medals he won as a player in 1997 and 1999.
"It's a huge achievement, but it wasn't an easy task," he said.
"As a player, you have to bother only about yourself. But as a coach, there's so much more.
"You have to take care of 20 players, both on and off the pitch."
The way his young charges played at this Games, Thailand's football future is almost certainly in safe hands.
Players like Chanathip Songkrasin, Sarach Yooyen, Peeraat Notechaiya, and the injured star Charyl Chappuis - he did not feature at these Games - have been tipped to move on to the big leagues in Australia, Japan, and even Europe.
Choketawee believes his players will make it there one day.
"As players, they will always aim for bigger things. This win is a step in the right direction for us," said Choketawee.
"Next up is to make it to the Asian Cup and do well and, if you can excel there, you can play at the World Cup, for sure.
"For players like Chanathip and Sarach, it's only a matter of time (before they make it to Europe).
"They still need a few years to get even better, and once that happens, we can only see how far they can really go."
Last night, in front of more than 30,000 raucous fans, the talented Thais were in full flow against determined opponents, even if they had to wait until the second half to find a breakthrough.
Despite having already scored 21 goals and conceding only one all tournament, the Thais struggled to find their rhythm in the attacking third as Myanmar defended in numbers.
Chances went begging in the first half as the defending champions had to resort to hopeful shots from range to try and beat inspired Myanmar custodian Phyo Kyaw Zin.
The breakthrough came in the 54th minute.
After a poor clearance off a Thai corner, defender Tanaboon Kesarat lashed home first-time from close range to send the favourites on their way.
Ten minutes later, Chananan Pombubpha slotted in the second after collecting a beautiful defence-splitting pass from midfield maestro Chanathip.
The contest was put to bed 12 minutes from time when substitute Pinyo Inpinit's scuffed shot trundled its way into the bottom corner of Phyo Kyaw Zin's net.
Myanmar coach Kyi Lwin, ambitious about his team's chances in the tournament since the first day of competition, was satisfied with his team's commitment, but he admitted he was heartbroken over the result.
"I'll be honest. We targeted gold," he said. "But now we have to settle for silver, and that's not good.
"I'm very sad for our country and fans, because we really tried our best and gave it all that we had.
"We started well and came close a number of times, but we fizzled out. The players aren't as experienced as the Thais, so maybe that made the difference.
"But either way, I'm proud of how they did. The players showed heart, character and teamwork."
Choketawee agreed, and claimed that in the seven games they've played at this year's edition of the biennial multi-sport event, Myanmar were the toughest to beat.
"We went into the tournament telling ourselves that our defending champions' tag goes out the window once we step onto the pitch," he said.
"We respect all the other teams and fans but, of all the teams we've played, Myanmar were the toughest team to play against. They had a lot of heart."
Vietnam hit Indonesia for five for bronze
Vietnam sent Indonesia crashing into the international football wilderness with a 5-0 drubbing in the SEA Games bronze-medal match yesterday.
Four first-half strikes, including a brace from Vo Huy Troan, guaranteed an unhappy send-off for Indonesia who now start an indefinite ban from international competition.
Vietnam, smarting from their 2-1 semi-final loss to unfancied Myanmar last Saturday, had an easy start when defender Hansamu Yama Pranata handled in the box.
Mac Hong Quan tucked away the penalty on 13 minutes, before they doubled their advantage through Vo eight minutes later.
There was more to come from Vo, who buried a screamer from 25 metres for his fifth goal of the tournament on 41 minutes.
Nguyen Huu Dung finished neatly with a first-time half-volley in first-half injury time, before captain Que Ngoc Hai turned in Do Duy Manh's shot on 71 minutes. - AFP.