Thailand captain Chalermpong Kerdkaew expects his side to dominate the group B preliminary round of the AFF Suzuki Cup, which starts today in Phnom Penh and Vientiane.
The Nakhon Ratchasima player only received the skipper’s armband from coach Milovan Rajevac on Tuesday and will lead the side in the opening game against Timor Leste at the Rajamangala National Stadium on Friday night (7pm). Group A, meanwhile, kicks off on Thursday as Cambodia host Malaysia and Vietnam travel to Laos.
“Our plan is take it one game at a time,” said the 31-year-old Chalermchai, who featured in the 2017 King’s Cup-winning team but will be making his Suzuki Cup debut.
“But we hope to win at least three games to dominate the preliminary round.”
Apart from Timor, Thailand are also placed along side Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore in the group, from which the top two will qualify for the knockouts.
Ticket sales have been slow for Thailand’s opener and Chalermchai is hoping for a late surge in public interest that would boost the team. “There will be a bit pressure playing at home. We need to win the first match to boost up the confidence of the team. We hope a huge crowd will turn out on Friday to show their support, which is really important to us,” he said.
Tougher battles lie ahead, however, and Chalermchai predicted an especially tough game with the Philippines at Bacolod City on November 21.
“The away game with Philippines will be the toughest in my veiw as they have several import players,” he warned. “We will have to study their game and go into the match well prepared.”
Vice captain Thitipan Puangchan, meanwhile, is being touted as a frontrunner to win the Asian Football Federation’s award for Player of the Year but says he is focusing solely on helping the team achieve its goals.
“It will barely mean anything to me if I win that [award] but my team doesn’t win the Cup,” Thitipan said.
“So my focus is 100 per cent on the team and we will follow the coach’s game plan strictly to achieve our goal.”