Five-time champions and current holders of the AFF Suzuki Cup Thailand will be looking to retain their crown when the tournament commences, though they may have to do it without some of their stars.
The title holders will enter the showdown without Kawin Thammasatchanan (OHL), Teerasil Dangda (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Teerathon Bunmathan (Vissel Kobe) and Chanathip Songkrasin (Consadole Sapporo), as their club won't allow them to join this non FIFA day competition. Then it's all down to coach Milovan Rajevac to find alternatives. Rajevac has decided to give those who performed well in the Thai League a chance, be it young hot prospects or veterans. Now the Serbian has a solid squad that may not as flashy as 2 years ago, but definitely hard to beat.
GK: Siwarak Tedsungnoen, Chatchai Budprom, Saranon Anuin
DF: Pansa Hemviboon, Chalermpong Kerdkaew, Philip Roller, Korrakot Wiriyaudomsiri, Manuel Bihr, Mika Chunuonsee, Suphan Thongsong, Kevin Deeromram
MF: Pokklaw Anan, Tanaboon Kesarat, Sanrawat Dechmitr, Thitipan Puangchan, Sumanya Purisai, Nurul Sriyankem, Pakorn Prempak, Sasalak Haiprakhon
FW: Mongkol Tossakrai, Adisak Kraisorn, Chananan Pombuppha, Supachai Jaided
Milovan Rajevac is a coach with plenty of experience, as he has coached in Europe, Africa, and also Asia. He led Ghana through an unbeaten qualification campaign allowing the African side to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.
For a year and a half with Thailand, he moulded them into a team with solid defending and better discipline while making sure the War Elephants were fast and sharp on the counter attack. It’s safe to say that the current AFF Suzuki Cup champions have become a much more mature side under him.
For Rajevac his true test awaits in the Asian Cup 2019, but this AFF Cup can also be a test for the Serbian since the expectation will be nothing less but to retain the title, with or without top stars.
Thailand’s chief problem under Kiatisuk Senamuang's was a leaky defence. The first priority for Rajevac was to fix that and he seems to have sorted it out.
'Chang Seuk' became way more disciplined under a 4-2-3-1 defensive system that made them hard to beat, hitting hard with their fast breaks. But in their last 2 friendlies, they were surprisingly good in a 4-3-3 formation and that could be their modus operand in the AFF Championships.
Also the midfield area for Thailand is now filled with creative minds like Sumanya Purisay, Sanrawat Dechmitr, Pokklao Anan. Arguably the best defensive midfielder Tanaboon Kesarat has also now return from injury and is ready to be deployed.
On the front, Rajevac will have veteran Adisak Kraisorn and also young guns like Supachai Jaided to choose from.