x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Thais undo Iranian hopes at AFC Futsal Championship

Underdogs stun the favourites with extra-time win and set-up a finals showdown against Japan.

Iran's defense could not stop Thailand's Jirawat Sornwichian, left, from scoring. Thailand overcame the tournament favourites 5-4.
Iran's defense could not stop Thailand's Jirawat Sornwichian, left, from scoring. Thailand overcame the tournament favourites 5-4.

DUBAI // Victor Hermans, the Thailand coach, is hoping his team's stunning win over Iran is the start of a new order in Asian futsal.

Suphawut Thueanklang scored a hat-trick as a spirited Thailand fought back from two goals down to defeat the defending champions and overwhelming favourites 5-4 in an engrossing semi-final of the AFC Futsal Championship at Al Wasl on Wednesday.

Thueanklang's first goal came in the 10th minute after Vahid Shamsaee (fourth minute) and Hossein Tayebi (seventh minute) had given Iran a 2-0. Javad Asgharimoghaddam made it 3-1 in the 29th minute, but almost immediately, Iran conceded a penalty through a handball in the box and Thueanklang converted from the spot.

Jirawat Sornwichian then levelled the scores in the 32nd minute to take the game into extra time, in which Apiwat Chaemcharoen gave them a third-minute lead.

With just over a minute to go for the final whistle, Shamsaee equalised with a deft back-heel. Team Melli, however, could not shut out Thailand, conceding a penalty which was saved by Mostafa Nazari. But with 35 seconds left, Thueanklang struck the winner with a rasping volley.

This is only the second time Iran have lost a game in the knockout stages of the Asian Championship, having won 10 of the previous 11 tournaments.

Their last defeat was in the semi-finals of the 2006 tournament against eventual champions Japan.

Hermans was delighted with the win ahead of the World Cup they host in November.

"The only thing I want, and it's not just in Asia but also Europe and South America, is that there should be more than one or two teams fighting for championships," the Dutchman said.

"To be honest, it would be really nice if Spain and Brazil is not the winner, but another country. It's good for futsal and I believe this is something we all should get behind."

Ali Sanei, the Iran coach, blamed the "pride" of his players for the defeat, but does not see his nation's stranglehold on Asian futsal loosening.

"This is not the first time we have lost a game and it is not going to be the last," he said. "Even the best can lose. Recently, Brazil lost to Paraguay in their own country, but they are not going to lose sleep over the defeat or look the other way. They will try harder at their game.

"It is the same with us. We will have to sit down and analyse what went wrong. We will have to find out weakness and then work on eradicating them."

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