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Ho Chi Minh City: Wind back the clock to a year ago, Bluewave Chonburi Head Coach Rakphol Sainetgnam cut a forlorn figure in Thailand. 

After holding the lead for 39 minutes against NAFIT Al-Wasat, Bluewave Chonburi were on the brink of a place in the AFC Futsal Club Championship 2016 final on home soil. An equalising goal in the final minute and three extra-time strikes later, it was the Iraqis instead who sealed a place in the Championship match.

It is little wonder that Rakphol declared a feeling of unfinished business, ahead of tomorrow's AFC Futsal Club Championship 2017 Vietnam final against Islamic Republic of Iran’s Sanaye Giti Pasand.

“This is one of the most important matches of my life as a head coach. Last year was painful and this year we hope to erase the bad memories with a win and bring the trophy home for all the Thai supporters.

“But I want to say that I am grateful to the FA of Thailand for keeping faith in me, especially during those difficult times.

“I have been telling my players since last year, we must bounce back this year, we must try to win the title. For our fans, for everyone who has believed in us.”

Standing between the Thais and their dream are Giti Pasand, the Iranian side who have taken the competition by storm.

Rakphol is well aware that his opponents will be looking to avenge their loss in 2013 when the Thais defeated Giti Pasand to clinch their first-ever title in Nagoya, Japan, suggesting that the familiarity between the two teams will present both positives and negatives.

Bluewave Chonburi are determined to erase the disappointing memories of 2016 in tomorrow's final. 

“Both our teams know each other very well. We have played against each other, and we have been following them not only in this competition, but collectively over the years.  

“Giti Pasand's strengths are their experience and maturity. They are professionals who make good decisions. Especially in attack, they can be very ruthless; Ahmad Esmaeilpour and Ali Hassanzadeh are two very dangerous players who are clear match winners.”

But despite the obvious threat posed by Esmaeilpour and Hassanzadeh – who were instrumental in Iran’s remarkable third place finish in the FIFA Futsal World Cup in Colombia last year – Rakphol pointed to the growth of his own team and Thailand futsal over the years as their biggest strength.

“Ten years ago, yes, we were afraid of Iran, we were afraid of Japan. But now our mentality has changed. We are not scared of them anymore. Now, we can meet anyone in Asia and we will show them the Chonburi style. We will not change for any team.”

“They may have super stars, they may have six World Cup players, but it does not matter to us. We will fight till the end to bring the trophy home.”

Photos: AFC