TOYOTA, JAPAN - THE FUTURE looks bright for Thai football after its young stars conquered seven teams without conceding a single goal to successfully defend their title in the Toyota International Junior Cup.
Shining brightest was striker Atsada Homhual, who grabbed the golden boot after scoring 22 goals in the tournament.
The two-time reigning champions won their final three games in style yesterday, beating Aichi Prefecture 4-0, Takaishi Chuo 8-0 and Vietnam 6-0 to top the table on 21 points after three days. Nagoya Grampus and Takaishi Chuo finished second and third with 16 and 13 points.
“I’m so proud of my team. They did an amazing job and showed they have the potential to play for the national [senior] team in the future,” said national coach Piyapong Pu-on, after leading his team to a third success in three years.
“The coaching team deserves credit for all their efforts to improve the team, especially our defence. Thai players often have problems with defence but the boys handled it really well this week,” added the coach.
Two-thirds of the 33 goals scored by Thailand in the tournament were netted by the talented Atsada from Assumption Thonburi School. His height – at 172 centimetres tall – combined with silky skills should make him a force to be reckoned with in the future.
“This is the first time I’ve scored 22 goals in a tournament. What I achieved this week is beyond expectations,” said Atsada, who will now fly to England to train at Premier League club Everton.
Former national striker Piyapong predicts big things for the teenager.
“It’s extraordinary for a 12-year-old to score 22 goals in one tournament. With proper guidance from the right teachers, he can go very far,” the coach said.
American-Thai Thanachat Benjamin Lindstedt, who scored against Takaishi Chuo, said he had gained priceless experience in the eight-team (one Thai, one Vietnamese and six Japanese) tournament – especially against the Japanese players.
“They never stop fighting until the game is over,” said the Assumption Chonburi School student, whose goal is to play professionally in Europe.