Can our footballers create another surprise? (November 17, 2006)



TOR CHITTINAND

Thailand has been relatively successful in the Asian Games football competition over the years, reaching the semi-finals on three occasions. This is no mean achievement considering the high quality of some of the teams in the competition.


Whether they can reach these heights at the Qatar Games is another matter and it will require some exceptional results from the young Thai squad.


Thailand's first appearance in the Asian Games semi-finals was in Beijing in 1990 under respected Brazilian coach Carlos Roberto Carvalho.


On home soil in Bangkok in 1998, with English coach Peter Withe, they made the semi-finals again. The high-point for the Thai team was a stirring victory over South Korea in the quarter-finals.


Four years later in Busan, South Korea, Withe took them to the semi-finals again.


On all of these occasions Thai fans were not expecting their team to do so well, but somehow with a lot of passion and determination they overachieved.


This time around there is no foreign coach and Thailand's Charnwit Phalajivin has been handed the unenviable task of producing the goods.


It will not be easy. Thailand are in a relatively tough opening group, facing Kuwait, Palestine and Yemen. Kuwait are probably the biggest threat but the other two sides are no pushovers.


Even if Thailand get through the first phase they will then come up against really tough opposition against teams like North Korea, South Korea, Iraq, Iran, Qatar, China, Japan and Saudi Arabia.


The warm-up matches have seen mixed results. Thailand did not fare very well in Malaysia's Merdeka Cup but then performed in encouraging fashion to win the Agribank Cup title in Hanoi, which gave the team a valuable boost in confidence.


On the face of it, Thailand will do well just to get past the first round in Qatar, although the senior officials at the Football Association of Thailand are talking about bigger things.


There is a lot of pressure on the head coach Charnwit, especially in the knowledge that the previous successes were achieved with foreign coaches.


It is important that Charnwit works closely with his squad in the remaining time to boost their confidence.


There has been criticism that his side has not shown much imagination or creativity. It is up to Charnwit to create the right balance and get the team to believe in themselves.


Thailand have some good players. The experienced Datsakorn Thonglao and Sutee Suksomkij provide a strong midfield combination and if striker Teerathep 'Leesaw' Winothai can find his shooting boots up front the team are capable of a creating a few surprises.


The opening match is against Palestine on November 28th and only then will we know if the team comes up to scratch and has the potential to create another Asian Games upset.