Thais' WC dream dashed
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Thais' WC dream dashed

War Elephants miss the bus by a whisker

Thailand players look dejected after the World Cup qualifier against Singapore at Rajamangala National Stadium. (Photo: Reuters)
Thailand players look dejected after the World Cup qualifier against Singapore at Rajamangala National Stadium. (Photo: Reuters)

It was a heartbreak for Thailand as they defeated Singapore 3-1 in their last 2026 Fifa World Cup second stage qualifying game but still fell agonisingly short on Tuesday night at Rajamangala National Stadium.

The victory drew Thailand level on eight points with China but with both teams having an identical goal difference, the War Elephants finished third on the head-to-head record.

The tears and dejection that followed the anguish of exiting the qualifying campaign for the World Cup elicited a quick apology from the Football Association of Thailand chief Nualphan Lamsam.

"I apologise to the Thai football fans," she said after the match. "One more goal and we would have made it to the third and final stage of the qualifying tournament.

"We needed to win our last two matches, but we could only manage a draw in China and that left our chances of qualifying for the next round hanging a great deal on the outcome of the China-South Korea game.

"Every player did a great job today. Some of them were in tears after the match."

Thailand head coach Masatada Ishii was also disappointed with the outcome.

"It was my responsibility, and I couldn't help the Thais qualify for the next phase," Ishii said at a post-match press conference. "I'm disappointed and it's a pity that we couldn't qualify.

"Every player has done his best for the team, but it was all over after the last week's away game with China when we didn't get three points."

The 57-year-old Japanese tactician added: "I took over from Mano Polking and have been in charge of the team for four matches in this tournament. We were able to get five points from these four games, but it wasn't enough to help carry us through to the next round."

Thailand captain team Theerathon Bunmathan said: "We had a big crowd at the venue and I was confident that we would qualify for the third round. But we couldn't make it. I am disappointed and would like to apologise to the Thai fans."

The Thais almost scored in the fourth minute when Suphanat Mueanta's shot was blocked by Safuwan Baharudin.

The hosts wasted another golden opportunity in the 26th minute when Supachok Sarachat found his way through before unleashing a powerful grounded effort, forcing Singapore keeper Hassan Sunny to deflect the ball onto the path of Supachai Chaided who fumbled in front of the goal.

Thailand got their first goal in the 37th minute when Chanathip Songkrasin's cutback into the crowded box off a set-piece was easily slotted home by Suphanat.

Soon after the break, Suphanan Bureerat slid the ball inside the box only for Supachai to miss the kick. Two minutes later, Sarach Yooyen was denied by the left post.

In the 57th minute, Singapore stunned the home side with a spectacular effort from Ikhsan Fandi, who slotted home a pass from Glenn Kweh to level the score.

However, Thailand fought back and regained the lead in the 79th minute when Theerathon set up Poramet Arjvilai. Jaroensak Wonggorn made it 3-1 with a header after 86 minutes.

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