Ekanit ready for Malaysia in KL

Ekanit ready for Malaysia in KL

Youngster says Bukit Jalil 'difficult' venue

National team players train ahead of their 2022 World Cup Group G qualifier at Malaysia on Thursday.
National team players train ahead of their 2022 World Cup Group G qualifier at Malaysia on Thursday.

Thai rising star Ekanit Panya aims to help the War Elephants beat Malaysia and ultimately advance to Asia's final qualifying stage for the 2022 World Cup.

Thailand will meet Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur's Bukit Jalil National Stadium on Thursdayin their fourth Group G match of the continent's second qualifying round for the 2022 finals.

"We know Bukit Jalil is a very difficult venue. Malaysia have strong home support there and they will capitalise on the atmosphere," Ekanit told www.fifa.com.

"We need to focus our concentration on the match, sticking to the game plan while being pragmatic. We will do our utmost to return home with three points.

"I think we have a good chance of qualifying to the next round but of course, we will have many difficult games ahead of us. At this level, there is no room for error."

After three games, Akira Nishino's men lead Group G with seven points ahead of Vietnam on goal difference.

The United Arab Emirates have six points and Malaysia three. Indonesia, who have played four matches, are still looking for their first point.

The eight group winners and four best runners-up advance to the continent's 12-team final qualifying stage for the 2022 World Cup.

Thailand began their campaign with a lacklustre home draw against Vietnam but bounced back with wins over Indonesia in Jakarta and the UAE at Thammasat Stadium in Rangsit.

Ekanit, 20, put in an outstanding performance in the team's 2-1 victory against the UAE last month.

In his only third international appearance, he set up Teerasil Dangda for the opener before latching on to Nitipong Selanon's pass to strike the match winner.

"I was very pleased to have offered my contribution in our victory," the midfielder told www.fifa.com.

"Particularly, I scored my first international goal which sealed the crucial three points."

Japan's Nishino was appointed coach of Thailand in July and he soon gave Ekanit his first national team call-up ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Vietnam.

The youngster, who helped his club Chiang Rai United win the 2019 Thai League 1 crown, didn't let the chance slip away, improving game after game and repaying the coach's faith through his fine display against the UAE.

"Coach Nishino asked me to be brave, aggressive as well as smart on the pitch," he said. "This gave me confidence. Though, there are still many areas where I can improve."

Meanwhile, left wing-back Sasalak Haiprakhon said he was ready to replace Theerathon Bunmathan who is suspended for the match against Malaysia.

"It's up to coach Nishino. I am ready to help our team by playing in any position," the Buriram United star said. bangkok post/agencies

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