No room for error as Thais meet Indonesia
Nishino eyes 9 points from 3 WC qualifiers
Thailand coach Akira Nishino is focusing on securing wins in their three remaining World Cup qualifiers as the War Elephants set their sights on a place in the next preliminary stage for Qatar 2022.
Nishino's side begin their remaining Group G campaign in Asia's second qualifying round against Indonesia on Thursday.
They will then play the UAE on June 7 and Malaysia on June 15. All games will take place in the UAE and kick off at 11.45pm, Thai time.
The Thais currently occupy third position in Group G and are three points behind leaders Vietnam after five games ahead of their meeting with Indonesia in Dubai as the qualifiers resume after an 18-month break due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Malaysia have nine points and the UAE have six with a game in hand. Indonesia have yet to claim a point.
With the eight group winners and four best runners-up advancing to the next round, the War Elephants have a slim chance of reaching Asia's third and final qualifying stage.
The Thais will have to pick up the points needed without Japan-based players Theerathon Bunmathan and Chanathip Songkrasin as well as striker Teerasil Dangda, and Nishino is aware of the challenge facing his team.
"Obviously, there are only a few points separating the top four teams but we are not looking at the table, we are just focused on getting all three wins," said the former Japan coach.
"I believe there is a strong chance we can qualify if we are able to get the maximum nine points from the three games.
"It is important to get the win against Indonesia as it will create a positive momentum going into the two remaining matches, although, it will be difficult for us as the players had limited time to train with one another and we are missing two key players from the J-League."
Thailand have lost just once in their first five games, but a pair of draws with the Vietnamese have left Nishino's men playing catch-up.
He remains confident, however, despite seeing his side lose to Oman in a friendly last week before being held to a 2-2 draw by Tajikistan on Saturday and lose 4-1 to Uzbekistan on Sunday.
"I always anticipated this group would be very tough to compete in. There is no more room for error for us if we want to progress to the next round," he said.
"The three friendly matches we played enabled us to identify potential final squads for our national team and at the same time it gave the players much-needed match fitness going into the crucial three matches."
After 18 months without international football, Nishino is confident his team has prepared well enough to make a positive impact when qualifying finally resumes.
"It has been a tough situation for everyone around the world," said the 66-year-old Japanese.
"We managed to arrange domestic friendly matches in October and November and that allowed me to see how the players were and, honestly, some of them improved a lot. We also were able to bring some new faces to the national team."
Thailand are clear favourites in today's match, having won 3-0 at Indonesia in the first leg.
Thailand were on Tuesday drawn to meet Portugal, Morocco and Soloman Islands in Group C of the 2021 Fifa Futsal World Cup to be held in Lithuania in September.
The top two teams of six groups and four best third-placed teams advancing to the round of 16.