Thailand coach Winfried Schaefer yesterday issued a passionate call to arms to his players ahead of tonight's opening Asian Cup qualifier against Kuwait at Rajamangala National Stadium.
Thai players take part in a training session at Rajamangala National Stadium yesterday.
Thailand's preparation has been unsettled by the cancellation of a warm-up match against the UAE and some injury concerns but Schaefer should still have a strong squad.
The German coach, whose future with the national team could be determined by the results of his side's first two Asian Cup qualifying matches, claimed his players will be spurred on by a raucous home crowd.
"I think the stadium should be packed with Thai supporters and that makes me feel 100 percent confident that we will win," Schaefer said.
"I have told the players to play for the Thai people and the country."
Schaefer recalled last year's second leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup final against Singapore in Bangkok, where Thailand produced an inspired performance to win before falling short on aggregate, and demanded his players reproduce that intensity against Kuwait.
"We want every player to play like they did in the Suzuki Cup final against Singapore in Bangkok," Schaefer said.
"At the Suzuki Cup and [last month's] King's Cup, although we did not win the tournaments, we won the hearts and the faith of the Thai fans."
Despite his confidence, Schaefer acknowledged that Thailand would be tested by Kuwait.
"It will not be easy for us because the Kuwaiti team is strong, especially in their counter-attack," he said.
"We must pressure Kuwait from the start and we are confident that our spirit and teamwork will bring success.
"We must get at least four points from Kuwait _ three at home and one in the away match."
The top two teams from each of the five qualifying groups, plus the best third-placed side among all the groups, advance to the 2015 Asian Cup finals in Australia.
The other two teams in Thailand's Group B _ Iran and Lebanon _ are considered stronger than Kuwait.
Thailand travel to Lebanon next month before the qualifying matches resume later this year.
Against Kuwait, striker Teerasil Dangda may be the key. The SCG Muang Thong United star recently returned from a training stint with Spanish club Atletico Madrid and Schaefer insisted he had already noticed improvement.
"He has gained a lot of confidence from training with Atletico Madrid," Schaefer said.
"Teerasil is one of the top strikers in Asia and he will be important to our success."
Thailand will be without suspended forward Teerathep Winothai but his absence should not affect the Thai team as he is not a regular.
Thai officials initially believed Phichitphong Chouichiu was suspended but the midfielder has been cleared to play by the Asian Football Confederation.
Meanwhile, Kuwait coach Goran Tufegdzic was pleased with his side's preparation but insisted his team will not take the hosts lightly."This is the first match so it is an important one for both teams," Tufegdzic said.
"We will not underestimate the Thai team. We have to respect them as they have had good recent results.
"We will need to play our best to win. It will be a difficult match but we will have our best squad available."
The match will be televised live on NBT at 7pm.
PROBABLE THAILAND LINE-UP
Goalkeeper: Kawin Thammasatchanan
Defenders: Piyapol Buntao, Theerathorn Bunmathan, Chonlatit Jantakam, Panupong Wongsa
Midfielders: Adul Lasoh, Sumanya Purisay, Phichitphong Chouichiu, Anucha Kitpongsri, Datsakorn Thonglao
Striker: Teerasil Dangda
About the author
- Writer: Tor Chittinand