Ishii hails Thai team's strong belief

Ishii hails Thai team's strong belief

Sub Suphanat earns a memorable draw

Thailand's Suphanat Mueanta, No.10, celebrates after scoring the equaliser against South Korea in Seoul. (Photo supplied)
Thailand's Suphanat Mueanta, No.10, celebrates after scoring the equaliser against South Korea in Seoul. (Photo supplied)

Thailand coach Masatada Ishii credited his players' belief and confidence after their memorable 1-1 draw against South Korea in the crucial World Cup qualifier in Seoul on Thursday night.

Substitute Suphanat Mueanta scored a second-half equaliser for the War Elephants after South Korea captain Son Heung-Min had put the hosts ahead just before the break.

The draw left Thailand second in Group C on goal difference from China, who squandered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at Singapore.

South Korea, who led Group C on seven points, will travel to Bangkok for the return leg next Tuesday.

The top two finishers in each of the nine groups advance to the next phase of qualifying, where Asia's eight guaranteed qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup finals in the United States, Canada and Mexico will be determined.

"The players had the belief. We had the strength and capability to succeed in this match," said Thailand's Japanese coach Ishii.

"We have the next game against South Korea coming up, so our focus is on preparing the team for that match."

Concern for Theerathon

Ishii also played down an injury concern for skipper Theerathon Bunmathan, who came off on a stretcher late in the second half.

"Theerathon didn't sustain any serious injury. He felt something in his groin and asked to be substituted as a precaution."

Thailand came close in the early stage when Supachai Chaided's dipping shot from more than 30 yards headed for the top corner but South Korea goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-Woo made an excellent save to deny the Thailand striker.

The opening goal came in the 42nd minute when Lee Jae-Sung cut back from the byline was swept into the bottom left corner by Tottenham forward Son. Suphanat replaced Jaroensak Wonggorn in the 58th minute and it took the OH Leuven forward only a few minutes to make an instant impact.

Suphanat played the ball wide to rightback Nicholas Mickelson whose shot from the right corner of the penalty area was sent home by Suphanat at the back post on 61 minutes.

Thailand captain Theerathon was stretchered off in the 83rd minute but the veteran left-back said it was not something serious. "When we scored the equalising goal, I felt something in my right groin, but I think it was not very serious so I decided to play on. In the last 10 minutes, I thought if I continued it may become more serious. So I asked to come off," said Theerathon.

"When I get back to Thailand and have a check-up, we will see how it is."

Thailand goalkeeper Patiwat Khammai had an excellent game as the Bangkok United custodian kept the Korean attackers at bay in front of a full house at the Seoul World Cup Stadium.

In the other Group C match, hosts Singapore came from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw with China, who played their first game under new coach Branko Ivankovic.

Wu Lei scored twice to give China a 2-0 lead at half-time before Faris Ramli and Jacob Mahler scored for the home team on 53 and 81 minutes.

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