AFC Asian Cup Rival Watch: Thailand coach under pressure after early exit from AFF Cup

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Milovan Rajevac; Thailand head coach
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Milovan Rajevac's playing style has also come under the scanner after Thailand's unceremonious exit from the AFF Cup...

India's Asian Cup rivals Thailand crashed out of the ASEAN Football Federation Cup (AFF) to Malaysia in the semi-finals on away goals rule following a 2-2 aggregate last Wednesday. 

Following the unceremonious exit, coach Milovan Rajevac has come under pressure along with Football Association of Thailand (FAT) president Pol Gen Somyot Poompunmuang. The team management along with Somyot held a meeting to find out the reasons for exit and also to create a blueprint for the upcoming AFC Asian Cup. 

Rajevac hinted that there will be a partial revamp of the national squad with Thailand's foreign-based stars -playmaker Chanathip Songkrasin, striker Teerasil Dangda, left wing-back Theerathon Bunmathan and goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan will be included for the Asian Cup. 

"Right now, I don't want to give any details on changes in the team for the Asian Cup. I will discuss it with the staff coaches and announce the squad next week, but there will be some different faces," said the coach. 

Striker Adisak Kraisorn failed to convert a penalty in the dying minutes of the match against Malaysia which turned out to be a crucial miss. The Serbian termed the miss as 'unlucky' and used it as a shield to defend against the calls for his head. 

"I don't have any pressure at all because, during the Suzuki Cup, we did not lose to any team. We were just unlucky that we could not score from the penalty kick and missed the chance to qualify for the final. We will make some adjustments to our tactics for the Asian Cup because we will have the foreign-based players in the team. I will use my experience from my coaching days in the Middle East to help the team during the Asian Cup," stated the coach. 

The coach has also faced much criticism for adopting a defensive style of play which is foreign to Thailand's free-flowing football. But it looks like things are not going to change in the future, keeping in mind the level of opponents participating in the continent's marquee tournament next month. 

"The level of competition in the UAE will be much higher than the Suzuki Cup. The coach is worried that an attacking game could lead to us to getting punished as in the past," said Somyot. 

Even Thai playmaker Sanrawat Detchmitr did not seem to be a fan of Rajevac's coaching methods.

"We are disappointed that we couldn't score a goal, but we didn't create many chances as well.

"It was really boring that we played more defence than offence. I understand that every player, including myself, is bored with this defensive style but it is an advantage now that we did not concede a goal." 

It has to be noted that Rajevac was hired the Thailand FA in 2017 with an eye on the Asian Cup. An idea was also mooted to use an U-23 squad for the AFF tournament. But because of pressure from AFF and sponsors, they decided to play the senior team without the overseas-based players. Still, they were expected to win the tournament easily and the failure to do so has invited pressure on the Serbian coach. 

The Thailand squad is set to assemble for the preparatory camp on December 19. 

The War Elephants have been placed in Group  A alongside hosts UAE, India and Bahrain. Their first match is against India on January 6, at Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi.