Thailand aim for flawless SEA Games
Men, women's teams eyeing gold medals
published : 27 Jul 2017 at 04:00
newspaper section: Sports
writer: Tor Chittinand
Thailand seek to make a clean gold medals sweep in football at next month's SEA Games in Malaysia.
The Thais are defending champions in both men's and women's events at the biennial tournament.
Watanya Wongopasi, the men's team manager, said yesterday her team's preparation began nearly a year ago.
"We have done our homework and studied our opponents,'' Watanya told a press conference.
Thailand, coached by Worrawoot Srimakha, are in Group B with Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Timor-Leste.
Group A consists of Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Laos and Brunei.
The top two teams of each group advance to the semi-finals.
The men's football event at the SEA Games is for under-22 players from the Kuala Lumpur tournament.
"Vietnam are probably our strongest opponents in the group stage. Their players have played together for a long time and we cannot underestimate them,'' said Watanya, who is affectionately called "Madame Dear" by the Thai press.
"We aim to win every game in the group stage and win the gold medal," she said.
The tournament could be hit by rain but Watanya is not worried about it.
"We are ready for any conditions," she said.
The Thai SEA Games side had an unconvincing performance at last week's qualifying round in Bangkok for the AFC U23 Championship with two draws with Mongolia and Indonesia and a win against Malaysia.
They scraped into the finals as the runners-up of their qualifying group behind Malaysia.
"Not everybody is happy with our results at the AFC U23 Championship qualifying tournament," said Watanya.
"We have to forget it and shift our focus to the SEA Games. We have to bring out our potential at the SEA Games."
Thailand were crowned champions in the previous two tournaments in 2013 and 2015.
They will begin their 2017 SEA Games campaign against Cambodia on Aug 14.
At the same media conference, Thai women's team manager Nualphan Lamsam said she aimed for her squad to win all their matches in Malaysia.
The women's football tournament at the 2017 Games is a round-robin competition, as the team with the highest points take the title.
There are five nations in the women's football event with Thailand facing Malaysia, Vietnam, Myanmar and the Philippines.
"We began training in April and our players are now training in Japan and will play a couple of friendlies with local teams,'' said Nualphan, widely known as "Madame Pang".
"Of course, we aim to retain the title but we cannot underestimate Myanmar and Vietnam, who are our main rivals in Southeast Asia. We must try to win every game to prove that we are the best in Asean.
"We may have to try to score as many goals as we can because goal differences could determine the champions."
The women's tournament kicks off on Aug 15.
Since women's football was introduced at the SEA Games in 1985, Thailand and Vietnam have been the only two champions with the Thais winning gold five times and the Vietnamese four.
Thailand last won gold at the 2013 Games in Myanmar.
There was no women's football competition at the 2015 tournament in Singapore.