Thailand set for double face-off with Singapore in floorball finals
Thailand, the underdogs of floorball, had an unexpectedly smooth journey to the finals.
Both the men's and women's teams cleared their preliminary rounds at ITE College Central yesterday, to rank second behind Singapore.
The countries will have a double face-off in today's finals.
But the Thais are under no pressure to defeat the hosts.
In fact, with experienced World Cup players on Singapore's side, the pressure is on for the hosts to shine, said Thailand coach Stefan Dahlgren.
"Singapore players have enormous pressure on their shoulders - not only do they have to beat Thailand, they also have to do it with a lot of goals.Anything else is basically a fiasco," said Dahlgren.
In yesterday's preliminary rounds, Thailand's men's team posted an easy 11-2 win over Philippines, while the women's team beat the more experienced Malaysians 6-2.
It's easy to forget that the Thais first picked up their floorball sticks barely six months ago.
Dahlgren, a Swede, said he has never seen a team develop so quickly.
"I think floorball was made for Thailand," he said.
"But we still have to remember they're only five months old - they don't only know the rules yet."
When Thailand scored the first goal in the women's game, the entire team leapt out onto court to celebrate.
Nasha Jutawijittam joined them from her spot at the penalty seat.
But the 14-year-old, the youngest in the team, did not know she could not leave the area until her two-minute-penalty was up.
She was given an additional two minutes for "incorrect substitution".
"She will never do that again," joked Dahlgren, "I think no one in the team will."
Both young teams have performed exceptionally well, despite being unused to the competition conditions.
Their training in Thailand has been done outdoors with a temperature of 35 deg C.
They are also not used to the flooring, the air-conditioning and the large crowd in Singapore, said Dahlgren.
"We try not to let those things get to us. We just go out and have fun," he said.
But his charges have higher expectations of themselves for today's final.
"We'll play the match like we've been training," said Veerasak Pimpa, who was the top scorer with three goals.
"We'll put our heart into the game and we can do it."
His confidence is reflected in the team.
"We have a good feeling (about beating Singapore)," said captain Nina Marianne Suppa.
"Of course, we have to think that - there's no other way to think."
Suppa, a Thai-Swede, has been playing floorball in Sweden for 20 years, but is representing Thailand for her SEA Games debut.
"We have fun on court and outside court - both men and women - it's really a big happy family," said Suppa, who ran out of the court to give the men's team a big hug after she scored the first goal yesterday.
Meanwhile, Singapore continued their dominance last night, when the men's team beat Malaysia 6-2 for a clean sweep into today's finals.
Singapore coach Saravanan Rajamanikam said that he does not want the pressure for gold to affect his players.
"I told the players don't think about external factors, just focus on internal ones and how you want to achieve something for yourself and for the country," he said.