PETALING JAYA: Winning the AFF Suzuki Cup is no big deal for Thailand coach Kiatisuk Senamuang.
The War Elephants won their fourth AFF Suzuki Cup with a 4-3 aggregate win despite losing 3-2 to Malaysia in the second leg of the final at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Saturday.
Kiatisuk also wrote himself into the Cup’s record books as the first man to win the biennial competition as a coach and player. He was in the team when Thailand won the inaugural tournament in 1996.
After winning the Cup, Kiatisuk said Asean teams should look beyond the AFF championship.
“We need to come out of this Asean shell ... winning the AFF competition is not enough. We must step up and be successful at Asian level,” said Kiatisuk in the post-match press conference on Saturday.
“I’m looking to bring this team to the next stage. Our next assignments are the World Cup qualifiers, the Singapore SEA Games and the Under-23 Youth World Cup qualifiers.
“We want the team to improve. We played against a very experienced Malaysian side and I believe the exposure will make the players better.”
It was 41-year-old Kiatisuk’s second success as coach, having guided the team to the SEA Games gold medal in Myanmar last year. He aslo took Thailand to a creditable fourth place at the Incheon Asian Games in September.
Kiatisuk said it was his players’ never-say-die attitude that won them the Cup.
Thailand led 2-0 in the first leg last Wednesday, but were down 3-0 by the 58th minute on Saturday. The Thais, however, fought back to score twice in the last 10 minutes for a dramatic win.
“I’m proud of the players. They never gave up and fought until the end,” said Kiatisuk.
For Malaysia coach Dollah Salleh, he said he will try to field more youngsters in the future.
“I only had about one month to prepare the team for the AFF competition, so I had to pick regular faces,” said Dollah, who was appointed as coach in June.
“Now I have more time to pick the players. I hope to look for younger players to join the team,” added the former international.