Win over UAE 'just the start'
Nishino sees bright future for Thailand
Thailand coach Akira Nishino said the War Elephants' 2-1 win over the United Arab Emirates in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday is just the start of a journey which will ultimately take the team to the top of Asian football.
Strikes by Teerasil Dangda and Ekanit Panya either side of UAE forward Ali Mabkhout's sixth goal of the Asian qualifiers at the Thammasat Stadium secured Thailand the top spot in Group G with seven points after three matches.
Thailand are ahead of Vietnam on goal difference with the UAE one point behind.
Malaysia have three points while Indonesia are still looking for their first of the campaign.
The eight group winners and four best runners-up advance to the continent's 12-team final qualifying stage for the 2022 World Cup.
Nishino congratulated his players on a fantastic performance but said there is still a long journey ahead for Thailand in their bid to compete with the continent's best sides.
"All the players helped and played for one another. We did well against the UAE because we played with more strength than they did from the start.
"We have shown today that teamwork is very important and that it cannot just be about individual players," said Nishino, who steered his country Japan to the last 16 round at the 2018 World Cup.
Nishino, appointed Thailand head coach in July, said the secret to success was an entire team playing well.
"To get results, we have to play as a team. When players perform well, their teammates respond and that is what happened against the UAE," Nishino told reporters after Tuesday's match.
Thailand opened their campaign with a 0-0 home draw against Vietnam and then beat Indonesia 3-0 in Jakarta.
Nishino said Thailand still had a long journey to endure, one which he hopes will end with them sealing a place in the next qualifying round.
"We have only played three matches and we don't want to look too far ahead. We want to focus on one game at a time," said the Japanese.
"From this game against the UAE, we have learnt new things which will help when we face Malaysia in our next match [on Nov 14 in Kuala Lumpur].
"We have to continue what we showed against the UAE, who are formidable opponents. We have to show that Thailand can compete with the best."
While he praised Ekanit, 19, for his impressive performance, he declined to say the Chiang Rai United youngster was the team's most outstanding player.
"I cannot tell you who is the man of the match because our concept is play as a team," Nishino said.
Ekanit said: "I feel really happy. Nishino always tells us not to be afraid of opponents. I think we won today because of our teamwork."