J-League stars' arrival to boost Thai bid
Thailand coach Mano Polking said on Monday the presence of Japan-based stars Chanathip Songkrasin and Theerathon Bunmathan will help strengthen the War Elephants in their bid to win the AFF Suzuki Cup.
They both missed Thailand's unconvincing 2-0 win against Timor Lester in their opening Group A game on Sunday due to their club commitments in the Japanese league.
Newly-appointed captain Chanathip attended a training session with teammates yesterday after arriving in the island state on Sunday.
Defender Theerathon was in one-day self-isolation after his arrival yesterday in accordance with the Covid-19 protocols.
Chanathip said he was hungry to play for the War Elephants and vowed to help the team win back the Southeast Asian crown.
"I have not played for the Thai national team for quite a long time and am hungry to help the team," said the Consadole Sapporo playmaker.
"We are here to bring the trophy back to Thailand."
Chanathip, who has won the Suzuki Cup twice, said it was an honour to be appointed as the team captain.
"It is an honour that the team manager [Nualphan Lamsam] and the coaches have trust in me. I will do my best."
Meanwhile, Polking was pleased with the maximum points in his first match in charge of the War Elephants on Sunday.
"We knew that they would stay deep and defend in a low block. As the second half started and it's still 0-0 then you started to get a little bit anxious but in the end we're happy we got the goals that we needed and take the three points," said the German-Brazilian tactician.
"I remember that my father once told me to not be unhappy when you win a game no matter how you won it.
"It is important to win the first game. We know that we can do it better after this game as we will have five days of training before the next game.
"To have Chanathip and Theerathon with us for the second game, everyone knows that these two players are the best in this region and to have them will surely help the team."
Thailand next play Myanmar on Saturday.
Singapore beat Myanmar 3-0 in Sunday's other Group A match. The Philippines are the other side in the group.
Defending champions Vietnam are in Group B with Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia.
The top two teams in each group reach the semi-finals. The final is scheduled for Jan 1.
Thailand are the most successful side in the Asean championship with five victories.