Coach Rajevac aims high

Coach Rajevac aims high

Serb says Thailand can be Asia's top-10 team

Thailand's Mongkol Thosakrai, left, vies with the UAE's Mahmoud Khamis. Somchai Poomlard Somchai Poomlard
Thailand's Mongkol Thosakrai, left, vies with the UAE's Mahmoud Khamis. Somchai Poomlard Somchai Poomlard

Coach Milovan Rajevac is confident that he will be able to push Thailand to another level after the War Elephants drew 1-1 with the United Arab Emirates in a World Cup qualifier at Rajamangala National Stadium on Tuesday night.

A last-gasp goal by Ali Ahmed Mabkhout cancelled out Mongkol Thosakrai's strike in the 70th minute and denied the Thais a rare win against the UAE.

It was Serbian Rajevac's first competitive match in charge of Thailand, having seen his men lose 2-0 in a friendly at Uzbekistan a week earlier.

"I am very pleased with our performance," Rajevac told a press conference yesterday.

"Although we failed to win, it was a good result considering that we only had a short period of time to prepare the team."

He added: "The Thai players have talent and potential. They are willing to work hard. They also have a good attitude. They understand my tactics and their duty. They are also hungry [for success].

"These factors will help us go in the right direction. If we work harder and I have more time, I am sure that we will become a top-10 team in Asia.

Thailand are out of contention for a ticket to Russia with two points from eight games in Group B of Asia's final qualifying round for the 2018 World Cup.

Thailand's last two matches in the group are at home to Iraq on Aug 31 and away at Australia on Sept 5.

After the UAE stalemate, Rajevac is now looking forward to securing Thailand's first win of the campaign.

"We have a chance to beat Iraq and get our first three points of this round," said the 63-year-old coach.

He added that Thailand had conceded a lot of goals in the past and his first task was to strengthen the defence.

"We have clearly improved in the defence," said Rajevac who guided Ghana to the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup.

Football Association of Thailand president Somyot Poompunmuang said he was pleased with the team's performance.

He praised Rajevac and said he believed the Serb would be able to take the War Elephants to another level.

STIELIKE ON THE BRINK

South Korea coach Uli Stielike was facing the axe after a turbulent World Cup qualifying defeat to Qatar on Tuesday plunged the team into a "big crisis".

The Taeguk Warriors weren't the only team to drop points in Tuesday's qualifiers, with Japan also conceding a late equaliser in their 1-1 draw with Iraq.

But after the 3-2 defeat in Doha -- South Korea's first to Qatar in 32 years -- the Korean Football Association turned on Stielike, whose team have also lost to Iran and China in Group A.

"This is a big crisis. We've lost a game which we should have won. The possibility of us surviving in the qualifying rounds is now in limbo," KFA spokesman Cho Jun-Heon told AFP.

"The KFA may discuss the coach's position when it holds a meeting of its technical committee [today]."

South Korea, seeking their ninth consecutive World Cup appearance, are clinging to the second automatic qualifying spot, seven points behind already-qualified Iran and one ahead of Uzbekistan. "I take full responsibility for this result," said Stielike.

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