Champs Thailand eye winning start
Coach upbeat ahead of Indonesia battle
Three-time defending champions Thailand kick off the defence of their men's football title Tuesday afternoon already three points in arrears of their arch-rivals Vietnam.
As the War Elephants fine-tuned their tactics for their first Group B game against Indonesia at Manila's Rizal Memorial Stadium, Vietnam started off with a 6-0 thrashing of Brunei on Monday.
The match between the Thai U23 side and Indonesia will start at 3pm, Bangkok time, and will be televised live by Channel 7.
The other two teams in the group are Singapore and Laos. Group A comprises the Philippines, Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia and Timor Leste.
The Thai players and officials haven't had an ideal build-up to the biennial tournament, facing numerous logistical headaches since their arrival in the Philippines on Saturday.
The Football Association of Thailand (FAT) has resorted to renting a training ground for the team on its own.
The training venue arranged for the Thais by the hosts is still under construction and located at a two-hour drive from the team hotel. It also lacked basic amenities and even the toilets at the venue were not ready for use.
After Monday's training, Thailand coach Akira Nishino said he was not happy with a number of things and "some of them have nothing to do with the logistical issues".
However, the Japanese still promised to grab three points from Tuesday's opener.
"Before coming to the Philippines, I never thought we will have the ideal conditions, but this is actually worse than what I expected. No one has felt comfortable since our arrival," said Nishino.
"Today, we changed the training venue and although the pitch is not in a good condition, it does save us a lot time in travelling.
"We have Peerawat Akkrathum with the team now as a replacement for [injured] Ekanit Panya, but Worachit Kanitsribumpen has become a doubtful starter for the match against Indonesia, weakening our midfield.
"I have talked to the players about our attacking and defending strategies, but today we focused on the artificial pitch in training.
"There are several things that I am quite worried about apart from the pitch surface. I can only tell the players and the staff coaches to do their best while on the pitch."
Nishino added that he had yet to see the Indonesian U23 squad in action.
"I have only seen some brief videos of their recent games, but I am confident that we will pick up three points from our first game."
Earlier, Indonesia coach Indra Sjafri said: "We are here with high hopes. We have won this tournament once in 1991, so we can do it again."
Meanwhile, Ha Duc Chinh scored four times as Park Hang-Seo's Vietnam began their campaign with a 6-0 rout of Brunei at Binan Football Stadium.
Finding themselves in a group featuring defending champions Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Laos and Brunei, Vietnam knew they had to get their campaign off to a good start and that was what exactly they went and did at Binan in their opener.
Brunei's marking from set pieces left a lot to be desired for and Duc Chinh took full advantage to net four goals, playing the starring role for Vietnam.