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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Giants poised for final battle

Arch rivals Malaysia and Indonesia will face off for the prestigious AFF Suzuki Cup in home and away leg finals on Boxing day and December 29.

According to, Indonesia, long regarded as one of the sleeping giants of Asean football, have chartered their way to the showpiece final after their 2-0 aggregate victory over surprise package the Philippines in the last four.
Malaysia, under the canny tutelage of tactician K. Rajagobal, have progressed to the final of Asean's premier cup competition for the first time since 1996 with an impressive 2-0 aggregate win over defending champions Vietnam.
Whilst Indonesia thrashed Malaysia 5-1 in their group opener, it is fair to surmise that the scoreline did not do any justice to the actual match and such a one-sided score is not anticipated this time around.
Indonesia will be hoping it's a case of fourth time lucky having made it to the final on three previous occasions only to suffer heartbreak in their respective fixtures (4-1 loss to Thailand in 2000, 4-2 loss on penalties against Thailand in 2002 after a 2-2 draw and 5-2 aggregate defeat to Singapore on 2004).
In fact, Indonesia have faced Malaysia in the semi-finals during the 2004 edition and despite crashing to a 2-1 home reverse, they staged a stunning fightback with four second-half goals in the return leg at the Bukit Jalil Stadium to claim a 5-3 aggregate triumph.
Indonesia manager Alfred Riedl will rely on his vital engine cog duo of captain Firman Utina and Muhammad Ridwan to boss the middle of the park and provide the ammunition for deadly hotshot striker Cristian Gonzales, whose two goals against the Philippines has seen him become the tournament top scorer with three strikes.
Malaysia on the other hand, will be relying on the pace and guile of Safee Sali to trouble the Indonesia rearguard while the likes of Norshahrul Idlan and S. Kunanlan will be called upon to provide the service for the attack.
Custodian Khairul Fahmi has been a rock between the sticks after replacing Sharbinee Allawee after the 5-1 debacle to Indonesia and the keeper has only let in a single goal from four games.
The desire and hunger of both teams yet to be crowned as Kings of Asean football promises to be an explosive spectacle in the AFF Suzuki Cup final.

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