FIFA Ranking: 115
Nickname: War Elephants (Changsuek)
Last match played: Thailand 0-2 Oman (2 January 2019)
Coach: Milovan Rajevac
Thailand find themselves in a bit of a disposition - too good for South-East Asia, as their record five AFF titles suggest and not good enough for the rest of Asia. The War Elephants reached their peak between 1996 and 2002, winning four AFF titles, came fourth in the 1998 Asian Games, reached the World Cup final qualifying round for the first time and reached a record-high of 43 in the FIFA Rankings.
This will be the Thai team's seventh participation in the Asian Cup finals - first since 2004 on merit as they qualified as co-hosts in 2007 the last time. Their best finish came in 1972, in the first attempt albeit as hosts as they took third spot.
Most of the seeds of Thailand's current golden generation was sown by former head coach Kiatisuk Senamuang, who still holds the record for the hughest number of caps and goal for the national team. He was given the job in 2014 after Peter Reid, Bryan Robson and Winfired Schafer failed and delivered immediately with an AFF title after a gap of 12 years.
Luck would take part as Thailand won Group F of the 2018 World Cup - 2019 Asian Cup joint-qualifying 2nd round, without any fight from Indonesia given their suspension from FIFA. 'Chang Suek' drew 2-2 with Iraq both home and away, and won the rest against Vietnam and Chinese Taipei - an absolute honeymoon moment back then.
Senamuang resigned in March 2017 after heavy defeats to Saudi Arabia and Japan in World Cup qualifying but in came former Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac, who almost took the African side to the semis of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and inherited a talented squad.
The expansive brand of football under Senamuang took a hit defensively and Rajevac addressed that straight away. The Serbian could not deliver any more wins in World Cup qualification but the backline became more robust.
Expectations were at peak when Thailand entered 2018 AFF Cup, even without 4 key players who were playing abroad. To crash out in the semi-finals at the hands of Malaysia was deemed as an absolute failure. Rajevac's defend-first football combined with the poor result made fans unhappy. The Asian Cup is a make or break for the Serbian.
In 20 games so far, Rajevac's side has won 8 games, lost 6 and drew the rest. In this period, they have kept nine clean sheets, shipping in only 20 goals, while scoring 31.
LESSONS FROM THE PAST
One has to go back to September 2010 to find Thailand and India go head to head. Two friendlies are the only games played between the two sides in the last 20 years. However, the last time India defeated Thailand was in the 1986 Merdeka tournament in Kuala Lumpur.
|H-to-H||GAMES||IND WINS||DRAWS||THA WINS||GOALS (IND)||GOALS (THA)||GD [IND]||WIN % [IND]|
|vs THA||21||4||6||11||21||36||-15||19.05 %|
Milovan Rajevac prefers a 4-2-3-1 formation with compact pressing game. It will be interesting to see how he will merge his AFF Cup line up with 3 players from the J1 League. Teerasil Dangda is still the best bet for the marksman position and Chanathip Songkrasin has a lot to offer going forward. Theerathon Bunmathan will have his chance to prove whether he is an Asian class left back or not. Goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchang, who plies his trade at Belgian club OH Lueven will miss out due to an injury.
PLAYERS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Teerasil Dangda : Thailand's number one striker is the only remaining member of the previous golden generation and the sole survivor from the 2007 squad. The 30-year-old almost became the first ASEAN player to win the J1 League with his club Sanfrecce Hiroshima finishing runners-up this season. He has 95 caps and 42 national team goals to his name.
Theerathon Bunmathan : Thailand's best left back plied his trade at Vissel Kobe for the whole 2018, having an average performance but will surely have gained a lot of experience playing with the likes of Lukas Podolski and Andres Iniesta.
Chanathip Songkrasin : The first ASEAN player in J1 League's team of the season, also Consadole Sapporo's player of the year. 'Messi Jay' became more of a complete package and more decisive under club manager Mihailo Petrovic. Apart from gifted technique, pace and creativity, he's now even more efficienct in decisive moments.
|Thailand squad for Asian Cup 2019|
|Goalkeepers||Chatchai Budprom (BG Pathum United), Saranon Anuin (Chiangrai United), Siwarak Tedsungnoen (Buriram United)|
|Defenders||Theerathon Bunmathan (Muangthong United), Chalermpong Kerdkaew (Nakhon Ratchasima), Adisorn Promrak (Muangthong United), Pansa Hemviboon (Buriram United), Korrakot Wiriyaudomsiri (Buriram United), Suphan Thongsong (Suphanburi), Mika Chunuonsee (Bangkok United), Tristan Do (Bangkok United)|
|Midfielders||Sasalak Haiprakhon (Buriram United), Sumanya Purisai (Bangkok United), Thitipan Puangchan (BG Pathum United), Sanrawat Dechmitr (Bangkok United), Tanaboon Kesarat (PG Pathum United), Chanathip Songkrasin (Consadole Sapporo), Pokklaw Anan (Bangkok United)|
|Forwards||Adisak Kraisorn (Muangthong United), Teerasil Dangda (Muangthong United), Chananan Pombuppha (Suphanburi), Siroch Chatthong (PT Prachuap), Supachai Jaided (Buriram United)|
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