(From left) ISTAF deputy president Boonchai Lorpipat, secretary-general Datuk Abdul Halim Kader, Sepaktakraw Association of Malaysia (STAM) president Datuk Ahmad Ismail and chief operating officer of Asia Sports Ventures Venu Ramadass with the ISTAF SuperSeries trophy.
KUALA LUMPUR: No worries, it’ll be a piece of cake!
Thailand captain Somporn Taisinghol made no apologies, claiming his team will be crowned champions of the ISTAF SuperSeries Finals 2013/14, which begins on Wednesday at the Titiwangsa Stadium.
And he even predicted they’ll do it with a 3-0 victory over hosts Malaysia.
To add insult to injury, top seeds Thailand intend to do it with what is likely a second-string side comprising tekongs Kristsana Tanakorn and Sittopong Khamchan, killers Supachai Maneenat and Treepong Rawangphai and feeder Taisinghol.
“Even though we’re without Siriwat (Sakha), Pornchai (Kaokaew) and (Pattarapong) Yupadee, I believe we will make the final. If we face Malaysia in the final, even with the home crowd support, we can beat them 3-0,” said Somporn after a press conference at a leading hotel here on Tuesday.
However, the bravado shown by Somporn is justified as Thailand have beaten Malaysia twice in the Series finals – in Bangkok (3-0) and Kota Kinabalu (3-2).
This time, however, Malaysia will be banking on tekongs Izurin Refin and Muhammad Syahir Rosli, killers Hanafiah Dolah and Khairol Zaman Hamir Akhbar and feeder Mohd Muqlis Borhan to turn the tables on the Thais.
The return of Khairol is surely welcomed as he and Izurin have had stints in the Thai national league.
Syahir is a new addition to the squad, having never played in any of the legs in New Delhi, Bangkok or Kota Kinabalu this season.
National coach Jamaluddin Hassan said that second seeds Malaysia, drawn in Group B with Singapore and wildcards France, should not view the Thais lightly despite them not fielding their strongest line-up.
“It may not be their first choice line-up but that doesn’t mean they are pushovers. They have experienced players on their side. Supachai played in India, Sittipong featured in Bangkok and India. We have to step up our game and give it a good fight no matter who we face,” said Jamaluddin.
Group A: Thailand, Germany, India.
Group B: Malaysia, France, Singapore.
Group C: Indonesia, United States, South Korea.
Group D: Japan, China, Brunei, Iran.
Group A: Thailand, Indonesia, China.
Group B: Vietnam, Myanmar, South Korea.
Group C: Malaysia, Japan, India.
Group A: India vs Germany (11am), Thailand vs Indonesia (5.45pm)
Group B: Singapore vs France (2pm), Malaysia vs Singapore (9.45pm)
Group C: Indonesia vs US (2.45pm)
Group D: Japan vs Brunei (11.45pm), China vs Iran (6.30pm)
Group A: China vs Thailand (10.15am), Thailand vs India (5pm)
Group B: Vietnam vs Myanmar (4.15pm)
Group C: Japan vs India (3.30pm), Malaysia vs Japan (7.15pm)