Thai football chief Somyot Poompanmoung has set the national team a goal of progressing further at this year’s Asian Cup than ever before.
The President of the Football Association of Thailand addressed the players on Monday ahead of this Saturday’s friendly with China in Bangkok.
Somyot told the squad he hoped to see them make a breakthrough at the competition, which takes place in the United Arab Emirates from January 5 to February 1.
“I have never asked our team to be the best in Asia but since Thailand have never progressed into the round of 16 in the Asian Cup, I wish to see that happen this time,” Somyot said during the meeting at the FAT headquarters in Hua Mark.
Kawin Thamsatchanan (left)
Thailand have been drawn in Group A along with the hosts, India and Bahrain. The top two in each of the six groups, plus the four best third-placed teams, will advance to the round of 16.
The “War Elephants” did once finish third, in 1972, but back then only six nations competed. Since then the Asian Cup has grown constantly, becoming a group-stage format in the early 1980s and now consisting of 24 teams.
Before then, however, the team’s priority will be Saturday’s friendly with China at the Rajamangala National Stadium.
The game will serve as preparation for both the Asian Cup and the AFF Suzuki Cup in November.
“This will be one of our most important matches as we are playing against a respectable team with higher FIFA ranking [China is world-ranked 73],” said national coach Milovan Rajevac. Thailand is No 122.
Cheryl Chappuis (middle)
“As we all know China have invested a lot as they try to become a strong football country,” Rajevac added, “but we have our quality and we have to prove ourselves.
“This will be additional motivation to try our best to win this match.”
The Serbian advised his players to follow the World Cup finals in Russia to learn as much as possible about modern football and also ordered them to stay fit for the two Cup tournaments.
“I want you to take a good care of yourselves to maintain a good level of performance, try to stay fit and perform well. Everything should be OK,” he said.
Well-known internationals such as Chanathip Songkrasin, Kawin Thamsatchanan and Teerasil Dangda are in the 26-man squad, five of whom had not yet returned home form their overseas clubs and missed yesterday’s get-together.
Among the new faces are midfielders Nopphon Ponkam, of Police BEC Tero, and Buriram United’s Sasalak Haiprakhon.
The team are training at the Le Meridien Suvarnabhumi from now until June 5.