Ridiculous FAT not doing any favour to game (29/01/2012)
With exactly a month to go for the decisive World Cup qualifier against Oman, the question is how well are the Thais prepared for their final Group D match in Muscat?
To stay in contention for a place in the Asian final qualifying round at the conclusion of the group stage was an achievement by itself for the Thai side, who were virtually written off after being drawn in a section that had two regional heavyweights, Australia and Saudi Arabia.
The Thais, who have four points from five matches, must now hope that other results would go their way in the final round of fixtures. A Thai win on February 29 coupled with Saudi Arabia losing to an already-qualified Australia would see them through to the last-10 team stage.
There is a possibility that such a scenario could happen considering that Thailand's single victory came when they brushed aside Oman 3-0 at home in September, while the once-mighty Saudis have endured an erratic campaign ahead of their Australia trip.
Should the Thais, who have harboured long-standing ambitions to make their first appearance in the World Cup finals, manage to squeeze into the next round, it would be the first time in more than a decade that they would be reaching the final qualifying phase. The last they managed to go thus far was at the 2002 World Cup qualifiers.
There is no doubt that the Oman fixture is viewed as the most important game in many years for a Thai side, now coached by former Cameroon trainer Winfried Schaefer, but the Football Association of Thailand's preparations raises doubt whether the mandarins realise the significance of it.
The FAT decided to stage the recent King's Cup tournament in January instead of December as in the past to use it as part of the WC preparations. They went ahead with their plans despite Schaefer's suggestion that rescheduling the annual event in mid-February would be a better option as the players would have more time to recuperate after a gruelling domestic season.
How accurate was Schaefer's caution! The Thais lost all their matches in the four-nation competition won by South Korea's under-23 side. The German quickly pointed to the players' poor physical condition, which restricted him to fielding a largely second-string side, for the hosts' lethargic showing in the country's most prestigious event.
The 62-year-old German, who has infused life into Thai football since taking over in July, also must have wondered what his wards had gained from participating in the tournament earmarked as a test before the Oman fixture but not featuring any team with Middle Eastern football style. With the event being held outside the Fifa international calendar, the other three participating teams opted not to send their senior squads, with Denmark and Norway fielding a team entirely consisting of home-based players. That made a mockery of the Thai FA's attempt to promote the tournament as one of the premier events of the region.
The veteran coach's work was further complicated when it was revealed that the FAT had to call off a training camp in United Arab Emirates next month after their counterparts said they were unavailable to field a side for a warm-up match on February 24.The cancellation of the UAE trip underlined the Thai FA's poor management skills. They should have prepared things much in advance than last week, having known the date of the Oman game many months earlier. Leading football nations plan every detail months and years in advance. Some of those even start finding accommodation in the host country of major tournaments right after they secure their berth.
The FAT should have tried to arrange a training camp in the Middle East long ago as they knew the players needed to get acclimatised to the desert conditions. Even though there was still time to find an alternative country, the authorities preferred to extend the training stint of the players in Chiang Mai and invite unfancied Maldives for a friendly at home.
How could we dream of a World Cup appearance with such ridiculous thinking ?