SINGAPORE - The coaches of Singapore and Thailand hailed the progress their teams have made after reaching the third round of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, in contrast to Indonesia who flopped out of contention.
Asean champions Singapore go into the hat for the preliminary World Cup draw in South Africa on Sunday for the first time after a gritty 1-1 draw in appalling conditions against Tajikistan in Dushanbe.
In Bangkok, Southeast Asian giants Thailand sealed their place with a 1-0 win over Yemen.
Singapore's triumph was all the more remarkable given an outbreak of diarrhoea affecting 11 players, seven of whom started the match on a rock hard pitch covered in brown grass.
Despite overcoming the odds, coach Radojko Avramovic warned that his side needed to move up a gear if they want to be competitive in the third round, when Australia, Japan, South Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia join the fray.
"We came with the goal of reaching the next round and we have done it," the Serb told Singapore's Today newspaper. "It may be okay up to this stage, but if we continue to prepare like this for the next round, when we meet the big boys (of Asian football), we won't go far. If we are to do well there must be better preparation."
Thai coach Chanvit Phalajivin was happy with what his team had done and said he wanted to be drawn in the same group as Australia in the third round.
"Every player put in a good performance," he said of the victory. "We will have to face one of the seeds, which will be teams like Australia, Iran or Japan.
"If I could choose I would like to play Australia because we met them in the Asian Cup and know their style of play."
Avramovic said he was not concerned who his team was drawn against.
"To be honest, I don't care who we meet. I'm only focusing on my own team."
At the draw, the 20 Asian countries who have qualified will be split into five groups of four teams with the winners and runners-up advancing to the fourth round.
The other teams through include Bahrain, China, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Syria, Turkmenistan, UAE, and Uzbekistan.
But Indonesia are not among them after being embarrassed 7-0 by Syria, who won 11-1 on aggregate over the two second-round legs. - Sapa-AFP