Thais face 'formidable threat'
Kiatisak's men take on Iraq, seek first points
With their back against the wall, Thailand take on Iraq in their fourth match of Asia's final World Cup qualifiers in Tehran today, expecting a tough battle.
Both Thailand and Iraq are precariously placed in Group B, which also includes Australia, Saudi Arabia, Japan and the United Arab Emirates, after suffering three losses each.
Although the duo did put up good fights in their matches last week, Thailand ended up losing 3-1 to the UAE in Abu Dhabi, while the Iraqis suffered a last-minute heartbreak, going down 2-1 to Japan in an away game.
Thailand coach Kiatisak Senamuang said yesterday: "It will be a difficult game for us, but I am sure that it will also be an exciting affair as both Iraq and Thailand have no points yet.
"Iraq are a strong team and they have changed a lot since we last met at the same venue [in Tehran] a few months ago in Asia's second stage of World Cup qualifiers. They are now a mixture of their senior and Olympic team players."
Thailand and Iraq were in the same group in the previous round of Asian qualifiers for Russia 2018 and their meetings in Bangkok and Tehran both ended in 2-2 draws.
"Although, the Iraqis will be without Younis Mahmoud, the presence of Ali Adnan, who plays for for Udinese in Italy, makes them a formidable threat," said Kiatisak.
"We are looking for a win which will give confidence to our players and fans. I am hoping that we will get our first points from this match.
"Thailand have not been this far in the World Cup qualifiers for a long time and it is still a learning curve for all of us."
Kiatisak was a member of the Thai team which reached Asia's final qualifying phase for the 2002 World Cup.
The Thai coach said: "So far, we have played Saudi Arabia, Japan and the UAE and we showed some good level of performance.
"The Iraqis have also done well -- they nearly beat Saudi Arabia and Australia and were heading for a draw with the Japanese. It shows that they are tactically better and stronger than before."
Thailand are expected to make one change to the team which played the UAE with forward Sirod Chatthong likely to start in place of Kroekrit Taweekarn.
Defender Tanaboon Kesarat, who was injured against the UAE, is also staking claim for a place after returning to full training.
Thailand captain Theerathon Bunmathan said: "Although we have lost three matches, we are still enthusiastic about the game and hoping to get a point.
"I have told my teammates that in this last 12-team phase, we can't expect a single easy game. Iraq will also be difficult, but it is important that we gain a lot of experience by playing at this level."
Iraq coach Radhi Swadi said: "We are under a lot of pressure. Although we are the hosts, it does not give us any advantage because the match is being played away from Iraq at a neutral venue.
"We still have hopes of qualifying for the finals.
"We will be playing without Justin Meram of [US] Major League Soccer club Columbus Crew because he is injured while Younis Mahmoud is not here."
Meanwhile, the Football Association of Thailand (FAT) has turned down an appeal by SCG Muang Thong United to move their Toyota League Cup final with Buriram United on Saturday to a later date.
Muang Thong had sought the change citing that nine of their key players are members of the national team which will return home after the Iraq match.
The FAT yesterday had a meeting and its president Pol Gen Somyot Poompunmuang announced that the final cannot be postponed to Nov 6 as requested by the Kirins.
"The sponsors did not like the idea of having the final played in midweek," said Somyot.
PROBABLE THAI TEAM
Goalkeeper: Kawin Thamsatchanan
Defenders: Tristan Do, Tanaboon
Kesarat, Koravit Namwiset, Theerathon Bunmathan
Midfielders: Chanathip Songkrasin, Sarach Yooyen, Pokklaw A-Nan
Forwards: Mongkol Totsakrai, Sirod Chatthong, Teerasil Dangda