Goal.com Predicts: Who will claim the AFF Suzuki Cup 2012 final between Thailand and Singapore?

With the AFF Suzuki Cup 2012 approaching its conclusion, our experts envisage a tough final between the two Southeast Asian sides, both of whom are battling for a fourth title
After kicking off less than four weeks ago in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, South East Asian football fans are just two matches away from seeing the coronation of a new AFF Suzuki Cup champion.

Both Thailand and Singapore are vying for their fourth title, and while the War Elephants have for the most part benefited from a friendly home crowd in the group stages, Singapore have reached the final stage despite having played all but one of their five matches on the road.

As we prepare to bring you continuing coverage of the home-and-home series, Goal.com's writers from across the region took a moment to share their predictions of how they envision the final two legs playing out.

Goal.com Asia Editor
1ST LEG: Singapore 0-1 Thailand
2ND LEG: Thailand 2-0 Singapore
HERO: Teerasil Dangda (THA)
ZERO: Daniel Bennett (SIN)

Speaking as someone more familiar with East Asia, it's been an absolute pleasure to discover the depth of talent in SEA through our coverage of this tournament. The region's stock is on the rise and the quality of play shown at the AFFSC shows that all of the participating countries - even winless Vietnam - have a bright future.

In my opinion, the final is going to come down to a question of which is stronger: Thailand's attack or Singapore's defence. Singapore have impressed throughout the competition, especially in their 3-0 shellacking of defending champions Malaysia. But Teerasil Dangda and company are simply too good to be denied this time around, and I think that in the end their offensive fire-power will carry the day.

Indonesia Chief Editor
1ST LEG: Singapore 1-0 Thailand
2ND LEG: Thailand 2-1 Singapore
WINNERS: SINGAPORE (agg. 2-2 away goals rule)
HERO: Khairul Amri (SIN)
ZERO: Anucha Kitpongsri (THA)

Thailand are clearly the favourites, but Singapore are also known to create shocking results of their own. The 1-0 loss to Indonesia was actually one of them, after the Lions upset hosts and defending champions Malaysia by a 3-0 score.

With a strong and disciplined defensive line, I expect that Singapore will frustrate Teerasil Dangda, but Daniel Bennett must be careful of Thailand's attack from the left wing through Anucha Kitpongsri and the agile Theeraton Bunmathan. It will be a tough battle in midfield between Shahril Ishak and Datsakorn Thonglao, and an experienced Mustafic Fahrudin will be forced to make some strong challenges.

Singapore should be able to take advantage at home in the first leg to make things difficult for Thailand in the second and deciding return leg.

Singapore Chief Editor
1ST LEG: Singapore 1-0 Thailand
2ND LEG: Thailand 1-1 Singapore
HERO: Shahril Ishak (SIN)
ZERO: Daniel Bennett (SIN)

The Thais have been the most physical team so far and by the looks of it only Singapore have the physical attributes to go toe-to-toe with them. So given how scrappy this game might be, I think it should be low-scoring, with both teams boasting very robust defences and two young talented goalkeepers who are hard to break down. But seeing how Malaysia closed Thailand down, I think Singapore have what it takes to go one better and shut the Thais down at home, as well as grab the odd goal for victory.

Singapore's road to the final has been unique in that, save for the second semi-final match, they have played the entire campaign away from home. Playing in front of Thai spectators should be of no issue. For the Thais, a visit to Jalan Besar Stadium, a ground they have no experience on, will be too new an experience to overcome in one match.

Malaysia Chief Editor
1ST LEG: Singapore 1-1 Thailand
2ND LEG: Thailand 2-0 Singapore
HERO: Teerasil Dangda (THA)
ZERO: Daniel Bennett (SIN)

The War Elephants are the dominant favourites for the Cup this time around. Schafer has done well in instilling a winning mentality into his team and is a master tactician with a proven track record.

Their three key players; Kawin Thammasatchanan, Datsakorn Thonglao, and of course Teerasil Dangda, will play pivotal roles. Teerasil, who creates chances for others and boasts clinical finishing as well, is arguably the region's top striker. Kawin's reflexes are as impressive as his command of his area whilst Datsakorn (when he's able to control his temper) is an awesome play-maker.

Singapore will not go down without a fight, but I think the Thais will be too much for them. Evergreen Duric will lead the line but at 42, he may find it difficult to perform over the two final matches.

Thailand Advisor & Expert
1ST LEG: Singapore 0-0 Thailand
2ND LEG: Thailand 2-0 Singapore
HERO: Teerasil Dangda (THA)
ZERO: Alexander Duric (SIN)

I believe that Thailand should avoid going all-out on the attack in the first match. The visitor should instead go for the defence-and-counter route. As opponents Singapore are not an offensive powerhouse and the match will be played on a synthetic pitch, it should be a boring and scoreless affair.

In the home leg, the War Elephants should play nothing less than their fast-paced attacking game as they'll look to trample their opponents in front of a full house of supporters. Their key men like Teerasil Dangda, Teerathon Bunmathan, Datsakorn Thonglao and Anucha Kitpongsri will be unstoppable this time. Singapore will sit back and launch counter-attacks via the long ball to 42 years old Duric. But at his age, recovery takes more time, and he will be very exhausted from having played throughout this long tournament. Panupong Wongsa and Chonlathit Janthakam are both aerial specialists as well, putting too high a burden on the evergreen striker. I expect a two-goal difference and a Thai victory in front of their home fans.

Vietnam Chief Editor
1ST LEG: Singapore 0-0 Thailand
2ND LEG: Thailand 1-0 Singapore
HERO: Teerasil Dangda (THA)
ZERO: Daniel Bennett (SIN)

For me, Thailand are the most impressive team so far. Although Singapore have pulled off some great performances, I still opt for Thailand's victory in the final. Teerasil Dangda, who has enjoyed excellent form recently, is expected to shine again in this two-leg final. However, I reckon it would be a close game as Singapore always perform well in the final. Since Thailand and Singapore are big South East Asian rivals and have previously met in the final of the tournament's 2007 edition, I fully expect an exciting clash between these two sides.

Laos Expert
1ST LEG: Singapore 1-1 Thailand
2ND LEG: Thailand 1-0 Singapore
HERO: Teerasil Dangda (THA)
ZERO: Daniel Bennett (SIN)

There is not much difference between both teams' quality at this time. Yes, Thailand are heading to the final as a favourite to win this tournament, based on their as-yet undefeated performance during the group stage and semifinals.

I expect that target man Teerasil Dangda will maintain his form to break the Lions' solid defensive display. While the Singaporean defence has been one of the best during this tournament, they still have a weak point in veteran Daniel Bennett who must play with much more discipline in order to cover his area against a cross-happy Thai side.

The first-leg match will be the key to the series. If The War Elephants can snatch a point or even an away goal, it will become much easier for them to claim their fourth title on home soil.

Philippines Expert
1ST LEG: Singapore 1-1 Thailand
2ND LEG: Thailand 2-0 Singapore
HERO: Apipoo Suntornpanavej (THA)
ZERO: Baihakki Khaizan (SIN)

Simply said, Thailand are the best team of the tournament so far. They have the most complete squad with adequate substitutions available whenever their core players can't make it into the starting XI. We saw Apipoo Suntornpanavej perform well when Thailand try to break Myanmar's defensive wall, then we saw Keerati Keawsombut strike twice against Vietnam while star striker Teerasil Dangda rested.

I believe that squad depth will be an important factor for the winning team in this edition, not just the star power of the squad. Thailand will suffer from playing on artificial turf in the first leg, but they will make it right when they host the final match.

On the other hand, Singapore can't always rely on the immortal Aleksandar Duric, and must focus on their strength in the midfield. If Thai players can dominate the centre of the pitch, the trophy will be theirs for the fourth time.

Malaysia Sub Editor
1ST LEG: Singapore 1-0 Thailand
2ND LEG: Thailand 3-1 Singapore
HERO: Datsakorn Thonglao (THA)
ZERO: Aleksandar Duric (SIN)

For me it comes down to how well Singapore can defend over 180 minutes; will we see the organised unit that registered clean sheets against Malaysia and the Philippines, or the shambles that let Laos score three goals? I believe the first leg will be a tight, low-scoring affair, but I think Thailand have too much attacking quality in the form of Datsakorn Thonglao, Piyaphon Buntao, Teerasil Dangda and Anucha Kitpongsri to be denied over two legs.

Thailand have the more complete midfield and should dominate possession, meaning that if veteran Singapore striker Aleksandar Duric is selected then it will be up to him to retain the ball and ease the pressure on his team. At 42 years old I'm not sure if he can accomplish this.

Indonesia Deputy Editor
1ST LEG: Singapore 1-1 Thailand
2ND LEG: Thailand 2-0 Singapore
HERO: Teerasil Dangda (THA)
ZERO: Daniel Bennett (SIN)

Thailand performed well since the start of the competition. Only once did they fail to win, against Malaysia in the semi-final's first leg. With stable performances at the top level, Teerasil Dangda and friends seem to deserve to be called the champions of the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup. But Singapore are no slouches either. In this crucial moment, Daniel Bennett and his colleagues could unveil a surprising performance. Laos and the Philippines have already become victims, and Thailand could be next if they is not aware of the Lions' unyielding spirit.

Thailand wins
Singapore wins
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