Thailand and Australia have it all to play for in last group game (July 16, 2007)



Qualification hinges on tonight's clash

TOR CHITTINAND


Thailand and Australia meet tonight at Rajamangala National Stadium in a crucial match to decide which of the two teams will progress from Group A into the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup.

With four points already in the bag, a draw will be enough for Thailand to advance, while for Australia, nothing less than a victory will do.

Thailand would also prefer a victory to ensure they remain in Bangkok for the next round, but would certainly settle for a draw.
A big crowd is expected at the stadium tonight to witness what should be a classic showdown between the teams.

Thailand are full of confidence after an impressive 2-0 win over Oman and a draw against Iraq.

Australia have had a miserable time so far with a shock 3-1 defeat against Iraq and barely scraping a draw in their opener against Oman.

Despite their poor performance so far, the Socceroos will still go in tonight's match as favourites considering their impressive line-up which includes top Premiership stars including Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill.

Thailand's coach, Chanvit Phalajivin is not getting carried away by the situation. ''One reason Australia have not performed so well is that they have played in the early matches when it was hot. But an evening kick-off is not so bad for them.''

He also feared Thailand might suffer a backlash as the Australian side bounce back following stinging criticism from the press at home.

''I'm afraid they might produce their top football against us,'' admitted Chanvit. ''If they are at their best then it will be a very tough match for us. We know we are underdogs, but we are determined to put on a good display.''

Chanvit said Australia were far more experienced than his side. ''They have players from the Premiership and other top leagues while our team are semi-professional and some are even students,'' he said.

''But we are playing at home in front of our own fans and we will fight all the way.''

Chanvit said the Thai defence would have to be careful with the crosses as the taller Australian players were good in the air. But he said he had spotted some weaknesses in the Socceroos and hopes to exploit that tonight.

Thai captain Tawan Sripan said his team would do their best. ''We want to make the Thai fans happy,'' he said.

Australia coach Graham Arnold has denied suggestions there is unrest in the camp and insists everyone is focussed on tonight's crunch match..

After accusing a number of players of not really wanting to be in Bangkok following the defeat to Iraq, there were reports of division within the Socceroos squad.

But, following spirited showings in the training on Saturday and yesterday morning, Arnold insists everyone is pulling in the same direction as Australia look for the win they need to have a chance of qualifying for the knock-out stages.

''The boys are in a good mood,'' he said. ''They trained well on Saturday and the atmosphere was great and they trained well yesterday.

''Some players said they need to take responsibility for their own performances and I've spoken to them behind closed doors about it and the players have accepted it.''

''We are in a position where we have to win the game. Everyone's pride is hurting, as well as my own.''

Arnold will be forced to make at least one change to the line-up with Lucas Neill suspended following his dismissal on Friday.

Tickets will be available at Rajamangala stadium at 100, 200, 400 and 700 baht while tickets for the Iraq-Oman game at Supachalasai stadium are priced 100, 200 and 300 baht.

Both matches kick off at 7.35pm. Thailand's match will be shown live on Channel 7 and STAR, while the Iraq-Iraq game will be shown on ESPN.

Probable Thai squad

Goalkeeper: Kosin Hathairattanakool

Defenders: Suree Sukha, Niweat Siriwong, Kiatprawut Saiwaew and Nattaporn Phanrit.

Mid-fielders: Suchao Nutnum, Tawan Sripan, Nirut Surasiang and Sutee Suksomkit.

Strikers: Kiatisak Senamuang and Teerasil Dangda.

Probable Australian squad

Goalkeeper: Mark Schwarzer

Defenders: Michael Beauchamp, Patrick Kisnorbo, Jason Culina and Brett Emerton

Mid-fielders: Luke Wilkshire, Harry Kewell, Vincezo Grella, Tim Cahill and Mark Breschiano. Striker: Mark Viduka.

STANDINGS!P!W!D!L!F!A!Pts!

Iraq!2!1!1!0!4!2!4!
Thailand!2!1!1!0!3!1!4!
Australia!2!0!1!1!2!4!1!
Oman!2!0!1!1!1!3!1!