After watching his Thailand side open their AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 Group A campaign with a 2-0 win over Timor-Leste on Sunday, coach Alexandre Polking believes there is more to come from his side even if he was not disappointed by the relatively slender margin of victory.
The tournament's record five-time champions were expected to make a statement against the lowest-ranked side of the competition at Singapore's National Stadium, but failed to find the breakthrough in the opening 45 and only claimed the win through second-half strikes from Pathompol Charoenrattanapirom and Supachok Sarachat.
- Two-goal Ikhsan ready for tougher tests after Singapore's strong start
- Vietnam, Malaysia renew Suzuki Cup rivalry; Indonesia ready to capitalise
- Don't miss The John Dykes Show, with all new episodes each Friday starting Dec. 3 on Disney+ Hotstar. Click here to join the conversation!
Speaking alongside his counterparts at Saturday's pre-tournament press conference, Tan agreed with the sentiment that Vietnam and Thailand are the favourites for the tournament, which kicks off in Singapore on Dec. 5.
But Polking was keen to praise his players for ensuring they got off to a winning start in what he felt was far from a straightforward contest.
"We are very happy for this three points," he said. "We knew that the first game would always be difficult and the players were also a bit anxious.
"We wanted to control the game, knowing that this young Timor-Leste team would stay very deep and defend with a low block. We managed to do that and created chances, but as long as the game stayed at 0-0 you get this feeling that you need a goal.
"It's not that I expect more but I believe we can do better."
Thailand's quest to reclaim the title they last won in 2016 will be boosted in the coming days with the arrivals of some overseas-based stars including J1 League duo Chanathip Songkrasin and Theerathon Bunmathan.
"We don't need to talk about Messi Jay (Chanathip) and Theerathon," he added. "We know how good they are.
"They are among the best players in the region and even in the J.League. We are just happy they'll be with us from now on, giving us more possibilities with different systems."
A real positive for the War Elephants was a man-of-the-match display from Narubadin Weerawatnodom, a Suzuki Cup winner in 2014 who was making his return to the tournament for the first time since then -- having had his career cruelled by injuries in recent years.
Nonetheless, the Buriram United man was keen to spread the praise around despite his impressive showing.
"I have to give credit to my team-mates," said Narubadin. "Everyone went out there to fight and eventually we can away with an important win.
"This victory is for the fans in Thailand but credit also has to go to Timor-Leste. They came with a good plan but eventually we did our job in getting the three points."
Understandably, Timor-Leste coach Fabio Magrao was far from displeased despite the defeat, explaining: "I'm so proud of what my boys did in this game. Like I said previously, the average of these boys in 20 years.
"It's a special moment for them, competing against a team that should be fighting for the championship."