Polking wants AFF Suzuki Cup triumph to be only the beginning of Thailand resurgence

Despite being handed the reins only in September, Alexandre Polking was able to lead Thailand to a record-extending 6th AFF Suzuki Cup title as they defeat Indonesia 6-2 on aggregate in the final. AP Photo/Suhaimi Abdullah

Having been usurped as top dogs of the region by Vietnam three years ago, Thailand reclaimed their status as champions of Southeast Asia on Saturday as a 2-2 draw with Indonesia in Saturday's second leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 final secured a 6-2 aggregate win.

It was a deserved triumph considering Thailand looked the standout side of the tournament from the moment they named a formidable side boasting several star names that were absent in 2018, before dominating proceedings all month long as they went undefeated in all eight matches.

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The success also continued the War Elephants rich history in Southeast Asia's premier tournament as they extended their record to six titles now.

But for Alexandre Polking, the man who masterminded the victory despite having taken over the reins just three months earlier, he believes this should only be leading to greater achievements for a Thai outfit who were once matching it with the best in all of Asia.

"Today, we are proud but there's still a lot of work in front of us. We don't want to only win the Suzuki Cup," said Polking.

"That's good for sure -- to stamp our authority in the region by winning a prestigious tournament -- but we want more than just to be number one in Southeast Asia. We don't want to win this and then go to the Asian Cup or FIFA World Cup qualifiers and not have a chance.

"It will be a lot of work but we have to believe we can do it because, in this tournament, we showed brilliant moments. We suffered when we had to suffer and defend well, but then we we had to create, we created the most chances in the tournament. We had a good plan in every game and that's what you need when you come up against stronger opponents.

"We really want to make that next step."

Polking, whose contract with the Football Association of Thailand is only until the end of the tournament, should have done more than enough to warrant an extension, especially with the qualifiers for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup on the horizon.

The affable Brazilian-German, who carried himself with class throughout the tournament with respectful comments about his opponents while often injecting humour to his press conferences, also never shied away from giving credit to his players.

Not for the first time, the ace in the Thai pack was talismanic playmaker Chanathip Songkrasin, one of those key men that were absent three years ago when they were fell at the semifinal stage.

Having been named the tournament's Most Valuable Player for the third time in four editions, following up on his starring role in Thailand's previous triumphs in 2014 and 2016, Chanathip echoed Polking's sentiments in insisting they can ill afford to dwell on past successes.

"I'm very happy and proud to be a three-time champion of this tournament. I have to thank the coach, my teammates, our team manager and the fans for supporting us, and helping us achieve what we set out to do," said the 28-year-old.

"Of course, winning the Most Valuable Player award for the third time is different, because what happened in 2014 and 2016 is history. This year has been very difficult but together we proved how good we are as a unit.

"I've grown as a player and the captain of the team and I'm happy to help the team. Now, it's about how we want to take the next step and how we want to improve that should be the target."