Toyota, Japan - The rainy conditions won’t be a problem for the national under-12 team as they launch their title defence at the Toyota International Junior Cup 2018 this weekend.
With rain being expected for the next two days at this city, in Japan’s central region, the defending champions will have to quickly get used to slippery conditions if they wish to complete a hat-trick of wins.
The 24-player Thai squad defied the rain on Friday as national coach Piyapong Pu-put them through a full training session in order to get them familiar with the atmosphere.
“I had to see how they adjusted to this wet pitch and to figure a game plan under this circumstance,” said Piyapong, who has spearheaded the youngsters to both their triumphs over the past two years.
“The weather won’t be a problem as all teams have to cope with it too.”
What is of more concern to the former national striker, however, is the quality of the opposition this year, with Thailand’s rivals all having improved their squads.
“Nagoya Grampus will try to make amends after they lost to us last year while Takaishi Chuo [Osaka] has selected much better players,” added Piyapong, who admitted some concern at how the boys will handle the pressure of representing the country for the first time at international level.
“Vietnam will also come well prepared as they surely don’t want to lose to us again.
“The first game against Nagoya will show how they cope with their nerves. If they can play to their true level, they should be fine. I have no plan to go home without retaining the title.”
A total of eight teams – one from Thailand, one from Vietnam and six from Japan – are competing in the round-robin format from Saturday to Monday, with each game consisting of two sessions of 15 minutes each.
Also competing in the tournament are Kariya City, Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture and Ventforet Kofu.
After Thailand’s opening two matches on Saturday, against Nagoya and then with Wentforet, the boys then play Toyota City and Kariya on Sunday, finishing with three final games against Aichi, Takaishi and Vietnam on Monday.