Thailand face battle to stay in contention (March 28, 2007)

The Thai Under-23 team have to avoid defeat against Iraq when they meet in Jordan today (kick-off 10pm Thai time) to stay in contention for an Olympic berth. With one win over India and one loss against North Korea in Group E, the Thais cannot afford any more slip-ups. Two teams from each group advance to the next qualifying stage.

Thailand are underdogs although the match is scheduled in a neutral ground because of the fighting in Iraq.

Iraq are favourite to go through.

''It will be a tough match because they are currently the leaders of our group,'' said Thailand manager Kasem Jariyawatwong.

''Most Iraq players are tall and strong. Most of them are from the Asian Games squad.''

Iraq defied all the odds to reach the Asian Games final before losing to hosts Qatar in December. Like the Olympics, the Asian Games football tournament is for Under-23 players.

Kasem said Thailand must get at least a point or their chances of progressing to the next round would become very slim.

The weather in Jordan at the moment is around 12C and the Thai teams have prepared long-sleeve shirts for their players.

Coach Prapol Pongpanich said he would used almost the same line-up that sealed a 1-0 victory in India two weeks ago.

Midfielder Apipoo Sunthornpanawet will be the only new face from that squad. He will support strikers Teerathep Winothai and Teerasil Dangda.PROBABLE THAI TEAM

Chalemkiat Sombatpan, Prat Samakrat, Kiatprawut Saiwaew, Suthinan Pukhom, Jetsadakorn Hemdang, Piyachart Tamaphan, Jakkraphan Kaewprom, Anuwat Inyin, Apipoo Sunthornpanawet, Teerathep Winothai and Teerasil Dangda.