Thailand keen to start on 'high note'
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Thailand keen to start on 'high note'

Asian qualifiers for WC start tomorrow

Thailand players take part in a training session ahead of their World Cup qualifier against China tomorrow. (Photo supplied)
Thailand players take part in a training session ahead of their World Cup qualifier against China tomorrow. (Photo supplied)

Thailand have put together the "best ever squad" to kick off their qualifying campaign for the 2026 World Cup against China at Bangkok's Rajamangala National Stadium on Wednesday.

Among the 36 teams taking part in Asia's second qualifying round for the 2026 World Cup are Japan, Australia, South Korea and war-ravaged Palestine.

A record eight direct spots and one intercontinental play-off berth are up for grabs for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) sides at the expanded World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Nine groups of four in the AFC will play each other home and away, with the top two from each going through to the next qualifying round.

Thailand have been drawn in Group C which also includes South Korea and Singapore and is one of the toughest pools of the qualifiers.

South Korea initially struggled when German legend Juergen Klinsmann took over as coach in February, but results have picked up in recent games. They take on Singapore on Wednesday.

Thailand have four foreign-based players -- Ekanit Panya (Urawa Red Diamonds, Japan), Supachok Sarachart (Consadole Sapporo, Japan), Elias Dolah (Bali United, Indonesia) and Suphanat Mueanta (OH Leuven, Belgium).

Thailand left wing back Theerathon Bunmathan said on Tuesday the War Elephants were keen to pick up three points from the home game against China on Wednesday, which kicks off at 7.30pm and will be broadcast live on Thai Rath TV (32).

"We have started working on the tactics for the China game and there is stiff competition among the players to be a part of the starting line-up," said the Buriram United star.

"This is a home match and we want to claim three points from it. Everyone wants to start on a high note. This squad is the best ever Thailand team I have seen in many years. We have many foreign-based players so there is a lot of quality and experience in the team.

"I think we are ready to play with China and Singapore [away on Nov 21] and we should be able to create good results in these games."

Meanwhile, Japan will be expected to book their place at an eighth straight World Cup after a phenomenal run of form since last year's tournament in Qatar, where they reached the last 16.

Hajime Moriyasu, whose side kick off their campaign against Myanmar in Osaka, has warned his men that Group B also featuring Syria and North Korea would not be easy.

Australia, who joined Japan and South Korea in reaching the World Cup last 16 in Qatar, begin their campaign against Bangladesh in Melbourne.

Coach Graham Arnold said the time for "experimenting is over", with the Asian Cup in Qatar also just two months away.

"Now it's all about getting the tactics right and getting the players on the pitch and their performance right, and winning those games at all costs," he said.

The Socceroos have also been drawn alongside Lebanon and Palestine in Group I. Bangkok Post/AFP

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