Thais warned of tougher ties ahead
Hosts on a high after big win over Bahrain
Thailand head coach Akira Nishino has warned his players to brace for tougher battles with Australia and Iraq following a 5-0 romp over Bahrain in their Group A opener of the AFC U23 Championship on Wednesday night.
Suphanat Mueanta and substitute Jaroensak Wonggorn contributed two goals each and Supachok Sarachat added another as the War Elephants secured three points on the opening day of the tournament at Bangkok's Rajamangala National Stadium.
The victory has put Thailand two points ahead at the top of the standings as Australia and Iraq played to a 1-1 draw in the earlier group game.
The outstanding performance has left the hosts in a good position to reach the competition's knockout stage for the first time in three attempts and Nishino was full of praise for his young charges.
He believes it was his team's absolute desire to win in front of a large home crowd that drove them to the big win over Bahrain.
"As the host country, there was a lot expected of us in the match against Bahrain so from the very start of the game we wanted to be aggressive in our approach," said the Japanese coach.
"From the first goal onward the players were hungry and eager to claim the win.
"Before the match, I believed that if we adopted a negative approach the game would go that way as well, so I told my players to be on the front foot at all times. I have been telling my players to be aggressive and they did just that on the pitch against Bahrain.
"The improvement you can see in the players since the SEA Games is down to how they have been managed and in tonight's game, I feel they were energetic and performed well."
However, at Thursday's training session, Nishino said: "The next two matches against Australia and Iraq may not be as easy as the one against Bahrain. We need to make a few adjustments in defence and in other positions as well.
"The Australians have a physical advantage over us and they could prove important in the next match."
Thailand's early dominance paid off in the 12th minute when Suphanat became the youngest player ever to score in the tournament at age of 17 years, five months and six days.
Shortly after the break, Supachok tricked Bahrain defender Salem Adel Hasan before squeezing the ball home from an acute angle to double his side's advantage. Suphanat and Jaroensak then followed with more goals.
Bahrain coach Samir Chammam said his team's heavy loss was due to Thailand's superior fitness.
"To lose is never a good thing in football, but tonight Thailand were fitter and better than us," he admitted.
The Thais resume their quest to qualify for the quarter-finals tomorrow when they face Australia at the same venue, while Bahrain play Iraq at the Thammasat Stadium on the same day.