Polking upbeat despite final loss to Iraq

Polking upbeat despite final loss to Iraq

Iraq players and staff celebrate winning the King's Cup after defeating Thailand in the final in Chiang Mai on Sunday night.
Iraq players and staff celebrate winning the King's Cup after defeating Thailand in the final in Chiang Mai on Sunday night.

Coach Mano Polking insisted it is not impossible for Thailand to secure a World Cup berth after his men lost to Iraq on penalties in the King's Cup final in Chiang Mai on Sunday night.

The visitors won 5-4 in the shoot-out after a 2-2 draw in 90 minutes at Chiang Mai's 700th Anniversary Stadium.

The Thais cancelled out Iraq's lead twice after the start of the match was delayed by 30 minutes due to a downpour.

Iraq also beat India on penalties while Thailand defeated Lebanon 2-1 in their respective first games of the four-team tournament.

Iraq went ahead after six minutes when striker Aymen Hussein found the back of the net from close range.

Thailand equalised in the 37th minute thanks to Thai-Norwegian defender Nicholas Mickelson's well-placed header.

In the second half, the Lions of Mesopotamia found themselves in front once again in the 65th minute when Amjed Attwan timed his run into the box to perfection to slot home to put the Iraq team 2-1 lead over the home team.

A determined Thailand fought back with yet another header from Bordin Phala in the 82nd minute.

The goal came just moments after veteran striker Teerasil Dangda's penalty was saved by Iraq goalkeeper Fahad Talib.

Teerasil was not one of Thailand's first five penalty takers in the shoot-out.

"We played well against Asia's No.7 team," Polking said.

"Our target for the World Cup is not impossible. If we have a full squad, it's all about confidence."

Thailand were without several key players for the 49th King's Cup including Chanathip Songkrasin, Supachai Chaided, Suphanat Mueanta, Phitiwat Sukjitthammakul and Manuel Tom Bihr.

"Our target is the World Cup. We must have a clear plan and be ready for the task," the German-Brazilian coach said.

Thailand will begin their 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign in November.

The War Elephants have never played in the World Cup finals.

Thailand last won the King's Cup in 2017 and finished third last year.

Meanwhile, Thailand manager Nualphan Lamsam said Polking would be in charge of the team until at least his current contract expires in 2024.

Reports claimed Polking could be fired and replaced by technical chief Masatada Ishii if he failed to guide the War Elephants to lift the King's Cup.

Nualphan said Polking and Ishii get along well and can work together without any problem.

U23 team face Malaysia

Thailand need a draw against Malaysia in their last Group H match in Chon Buri today to qualify for the AFC U23 Asian Cup finals.

The 11 group winners and four best second placed sides will join Qatar in the April 15 to May 3, 2024 finals.

Both teams have two wins each, with Thailand ahead on goal dif- ference.

The match at Chonburi Stadium kicks off at 8.30pm.

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