were brilliant in the FA Premier League Asia Trophy in Bangkok last week,
finishing second after losing 1-0 to Bolton in the final.
The Thais played well and deserved at least a draw in normal time.
However, a late controversial penalty converted by El Hadji Diouf sealed
the win for the Premiership side.
Thailand were also impressive in their opening match of the four-team
tournament when they beat Everton on penalties following a 1-1 draw after
The home side had more possession than the Toffeemen and could have
clinched a win in normal time had their marksmen been sharper.
Thailand caused trouble for Everton and Bolton with their passing and
counter-attacks. Marshalled by young stars Prat Samakrat and Kiatprawut
Saiwae, Thailand's defence, which is normally fragile to aerial attacks,
could handle all the big strikers _ including Duncan Ferguson _ with
Midfielders Datsakorn Thonglao and Phichitpong Choeichiu, who scored a
stunning goal against Everton, were outstanding while several others look
to have a bright future including Jakkrit Bunkham and Piyawat Thongmaen.
Thailand's overall performance in the event was even better considering
that they are a young side whose average is just 20. They are the
Kingdom's Under-23 squad being prepared for the SEA Games later this year.
Probably because they are young, they have more determination and ambition
than the veterans.
Thailand coach Charnwit Pholcheewin seems to be on the right track as he
intends to rebuild a new national full squad using most of the players
from the Under-23 side.
Charnwit proves to a degree he is the right man for the right job as
Thailand coach. If he is not sacked in the near future, he will help save
the Football Association of Thailand a fortune in hiring a foreign coach.
Despite creditable performance in the tournament, Thailand still have to
prove that they can play away from home. With the SEA Games to be held in
the Philippines, six-time defending champions Thailand could face tough
opponents in Indonesia, Vietnam and enigmatic Myanmar.
Former Thailand coach Peter Withe, who is now in charge of Indonesia, was
in Bangkok last week to watch the Asia Trophy. While he had praise for the
Thais, he got first-hand information which could be useful at the SEA
While most of the Thai players received praise from Charnwit and the
press, the odd man out was striker Teerathep ``Leesaw'' Winothai, who was
seen as Thailand's best player of his generation a few years ago.
Teerathep, who was a substitute in both matches, was heavily criticised by
the press. He missed a couple of clear chances against Everton and had an
even worse display against Bolton.
As a second-half substitute, Teerathep, who speaks English thanks to his
spell as a trainee at Crystal Palace, spent most of the time arguing with
the English referee as if he was the team captain and resorting to foul
He escaped unpunished when he elbowed a Bolton player. After the incident,
the match became ugly with a series of hard tackles from both sides. That
prompted Charnwit to replace Teerathep to defuse the situation.
Teerathep, who has not yet lived up to expectations, may try to hard to
prove his ability. He still has a lot to learn and has to change his
attitude and temper soon or his international career could be in jeopardy
as Charnwit says he prefers players who behave.
Although the tournament was meaningless, it was a much-needed tonic for
Thailand who suffered humiliating spells in the World Cup qualifying,
Asian Cup and Tiger Cup last year.
During struggle, a good performance in any competition helps boost the
morale of the players and concerned parties.
The Thai team have won back some faith from fans who may soon forget the
likes of Kiatisak ``Zico'' Senamuang and Tawan Sripan.