Thailand eyeing Saudi Arabia scalp (11/10/2011)

Thailand will be gunning for a historic win against Saudi Arabia when they meet in tonight's crucial World Cup qualifier at Rajamangala National Stadium.

The match kicks off at 6pm and will be televised live on Channel 11.

The encounter is important for both sides and the result could determine the fate of Dutchman Frank Rijkaard as coach of Saudi Arabia.

Thailand are second in Group D of Asia's qualifying for the 2014 World Cup after two games with Saudi Arabia having only one. Australia, who have six points, host Oman, who have one, in the other Group D game today.

The top two teams from each of the five groups advance to the continent's final qualifying stage.

"It will be a difficult match for our team and there is also a lot of pressure on me as well," Thailand coach Winfried Schaefer told a press conference yesterday.

"When I saw the list of the Saudi Arabia team which their coach Frank Rijkaard has brought, they have their best striker in the group and also the talented Majed Al-Marshedi."

Thailand beat Oman 3-0 last month but Schaefer said Saudi Arabia will be a stronger opponent.

"I want the players to produce their best performances. I watched the tape between Saudi Arabia and Australia and although Saudi Arabia lost 3-1, they had several chances to score," Schaefer added.

"But I have confidence in my players and they are looking forward to the game. They have worked very hard in training and also with their fitness. Therefore, there is no reason to be afraid of the Saudis."

The German coach is full of respect for former AC Milan and Holland star Rijkaard but believes the Saudi coach is under huge pressure following a poor campaign.

"Rijkaard is a good coach. When he was a player, he was very well known player," he said. "But to be a coach in the Middle East team is not easy because you face a lot of pressure especially after they lost their recent match to Australia."

Thailand will be boosted by the return of midfielder Datsakorn Thonglao and Teerasil Dangda from injury and they will both start the match.

Thailand have never beaten Saudi Arabia in competitive games. In 14 meetings, the Thais have defeated the Saudis only once with a 3-1 win in a friendly back in 1984. They have got only one draw, also in a friendly in 1980, and lost 12 matches.

Thailand will receive two million baht in bonus if they win tonight and a draw is worth one million baht.

Worawi Makudi, president of the Football Association of Thailand, promised yesterday that the FAT would give the team 500,000 baht if they play well but lose.

Rijkaard admitted that he is feeling the heat in his current position and knows his side has to produce a result against the hosts.

"Of course, I have a lot of pressure because Saudi Arabia are currently third in the group with only one point." he said.

"Both teams can win and get the three points. Winnie is a good coach and I believe that he can improve the Thai team further."

And he is refusing to write off his side's chances of qualifying for the World Cup.

"In the first two matches, we didn't do well. We didn't bring out our 100 percent performance in the past two matches, but I do hope that we can bring our best form against Thailand," said the Dutchman.

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