Coach hints at changes in U23 line-up
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Coach hints at changes in U23 line-up

Nishino to call up more players for training

Thailand coach Akira Nishino (second right) attends Friday's press conference.
Thailand coach Akira Nishino (second right) attends Friday's press conference.

Thailand coach Akira Nishino has issued a veiled warning to the 2019 SEA Games team players that their places in next month's AFC U23 Championship squad are not guaranteed.

The veteran Japanese coach said at Friday's press conference for the Asian youth meet, which Thailand will host in January, that he planned to call up more players and "re-assess everyone" before announcing the final line-up.

The AFC U23 Championship will take place from Jan 8-26 with the top-three finishers getting tickets to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Thailand were hoping to defend their SEA Games crown in the Philippines for a fourth time but were eliminated in the first round this month.

"We want the players to take rest for at least 10 days after the SEA Games and we will have to check on their fitness again when they join the training camp on Dec 26," said Nishino.

"I realise that some clubs in Thailand's leagues have already started their pre-season preparations but it doesn't mean that all the players will be fit when they report for training.

"Of course, we will call more players in every position besides those who were part of the SEA Games team.

"We will see during the training how each player is doing, re-assess everyone and make the decision later.

"We have lots of things to improve during this training camp, so, yes, we will call more players in every position -- defenders, midfielders and forwards.

"We are also planning to gather information on our opponents as well.

"As in the past, we have assigned our assistant coaches the task of gathering information and I have already briefed them on what to look for.

"The main ones are Bahrain because they are the first team we will play while we can watch the others during the tournament itself."

The War Elephants kick off their campaign with the match against Bahrain on Jan 8 at Bangkok's Rajamangala National Stadium. They play Australia on Jan 11 and Iraq three days later at the same venue.

Nishino added that he expected the home crowds to be a motivating factor for the team.

"We are the hosts of the tournament and I believe that cheering crowds will be the source of inspiration for the players and the reason for pressure," he said.

The coach said it would have been better for him to have a Japanese assistant but in his capacity as the head coach "it is my job to train the local coaches as well so I will continue with the present team.

"My job here reminds me of the time I took Japan to the Olympic Games [in 1996]. Japan were trying to put the right framework and infrastructure in place at the time and eventually had success.

"It was a challenging time for Japan and the challenges here in Thailand look the same to me."

At the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, Nishino's Japan were eliminated in the first round of the football tournament although they had two wins including one against Brazil.

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