Five-time champions Thailand advanced into the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 after beating the Philippines 2-1 in their Group A match at Singapore's National Stadium on Tuesday (Dec 14).
The result also meant that Singapore booked their spot in the semis without kicking a ball by virtue of their better head-to-head records against the Philippines and Myanmar.
This is the third win at this year's tournament for the Thais, who are coached by Alexandre Polking, having defeated Timor-Leste 2-0 and Myanmar 4-0 earlier to sit at the top of the table with nine points.
In Tuesday’s match, prolific striker Teerasil Dangda shone with a goal in each half to lead the War Elephants into the semi-finals for the fifth straight time since the 2012 edition.
The 33-year-old striker, who plays for BG Pathum United, let fly a left-footed volley in the 26th minute to put Thailand 1-0 up before the Philippines equalised through Patrick Reichelt in the 57th minute.
Teerasil, who was the top scorer in the 2012 and 2016 editions of the Suzuki Cup, then coolly slotted a penalty kick past Filipino goalkeeper Kevin Ray Mendoza in the 78th minute to seal the victory for Thailand.
Teerasil's goals took his overall tally in the Suzuki Cup to 19, lifting him ahead of Singapore's Noh Alam Shah as the tournament's all-time top scorer.
Thailand coach Alexandre Polking was full of praise for the veteran striker, who was named man of the match.
“I don’t know how often I can come here and praise him, he’s the best striker I’ve coached and the best striker I’ve seen, and he just proved that again," he said.
“He creates chances, he came up with another world-class finish tonight, and I hope he can keep going and score another five, six or seven goals so that we can reach and win the final.”
Polking also paid tribute to the rest of his squad.
“I want to praise the starting players and the players that came in because this was a very important three points for us where we’ve now reached our minimum target of qualifying for the semi-finals, and it gives us more time to train together.”
Philippines coach Stewart Hall said that Thailand's second-half penalty was the game's decisive moment.
“Up until then we were right in the game," he said.
"Credit to Thailand because they played well, but the penalty was obviously the deciding factor.”
Singapore beat Timor-Leste 2-0 in Tuesday night's other match, and will wrap up their group stage fixtures with a top-of-the-table clash with Thailand on Saturday evening.
The Philippines and Myanmar will finish off their campaigns at the same time in a match with only pride at stake.
Thailand are the Suzuki Cup's most successful side, having lifted the trophy in 1996, 2000, 2002, 2014 and 2016.
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