War Elephants eye good result
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War Elephants eye good result

Ishii expects a tough duel at Rajamangala

Thailand coach Masatada Ishii, left, attends a pre-match press conference in Bangkok on Monday.
Thailand coach Masatada Ishii, left, attends a pre-match press conference in Bangkok on Monday.

Thailand coach Masatada Ishii is once again planning to employ a defensive strategy for the War Elephants' fourth Group C game of the Asian qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup against South Korea at Bangkok's Rajamangala National Stadium tonight.

There was some good news for the home team as skipper Theerathon Bunmathan had full training with the team on Monday and is likely to be named in the starting line-up for tonight's game.

The match will kick off at 7.30pm and will be televised live by Thai Rath TV (32).

South Korea top the group and poised to go through, with China and Thailand tied on four points, but the Thais have a better goal difference.

Ishii is expecting another tough battle with the mighty South Koreans, who are the favourites to go through to the third and final stage of the Asian zone qualifiers as Group C winners.

The top two teams from each of the nine groups will proceed to the next phase of the qualifying tournament.

"This will be my first game in charge of the team in Thailand and the fans' expectations are very high at the moment," said Ishii.

"Many members of the Korean team play in Europe and have very high potential. We must take them on as a team and do our best in defence once again.

"We will try to get as many points as possible from our remaining matches and I hope the presence of a large cheering crowd at the venue will have a positive impact of the team's morale. We will try our best to get a good result in this game."

The Japanese coach also thanked Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin for backing Football Association of Thailand's bid to raise a nine-million-baht cash reward for the team for a victory over the South Koreans in tonight's clash.

South Korea's interim head coach Hwang Sun-Hong is expecting a winning performance from his players after their 1-1 draw with the Thais on Thursday.

"In the first game with Thailand, we had problems with the balance between the left and right wings and there were several problems in the counter-attacking when they [the Thais] played a defensive game,' said Hwang.

"We needed an improvement which is very difficult because we have limited times in preparing, but we are here ready to manage the strength of our opponents.

"The unity in the team is very important. I think everyone wants to play as team now, but we need to show more intention."

Meanwhile, China captain Zhang Linpeng is in line to play in a crucial World Cup qualifier today, days after quitting international football over the "disgrace" of a draw with Singapore.

Known as China's answer to Sergio Ramos because he also plays centre-back and also has numerous tattoos, Zhang said he'd had enough after his team surrendered a 2-0 lead at Singapore on Thursday.

"We can't even manage to beat Singapore at this point," the 34-year-old fumed in the aftermath.

"Personally I find it unbearable. It's a disgrace."

But with China's chances of reaching the World Cup for only a second time in the balance, Zhang has had a swift change of heart.

"Those words I said immediately after the match clearly had a big impact on the team and the players," the defender told state television at the weekend.

"In fact, what I wanted to say -- but maybe I didn't handle it the right way -- was that my own mistake put the team into that situation [in the game].

"In that respect, first of all as the captain, I don't think I led the team properly."

He added: "Now I've thought back over it, as long as the national team needs me -- whether that's as a first-choice player, as a substitute or even if I don't get on to the pitch -- I'm still willing to give everything I have for this team."

China host Singapore today in the city of Tianjin. Bangkok Post/AFP

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