Midfielder Sanrawat Dechmitr says coach Milovan Rajevac’s defensive policy has turned his side into a more systematic team, after Thailand scored a record 15 goals in the group stages of the AFF Suzuki Cup.
In doing so, Thailand broke their record of 13 goals achieved in the round-robin stages in 1996 and 2004. They advanced to the semi-finals after conceding just three goals from four matches.
But despite the goal glut, the national team has been widely criticised for being too defensive, which has always been a focus for Rajevac since he took up the job in 2017.
Bangkok United’s Sanrawat agrees with the Serbian’s tactics, which he says he was initially not fond of. “As a player who loves to play an attacking game, I didn’t understand why I had to play defensively. But if you understand the coach well, you realise he’s just attempting to help in the areas where we need to improve. So I accept what he’s trying to do,” said the 29-year-old, who has assisted on four of the goals scored by his team.
“We may not play beautiful, attacking football but we have been more systematic as a team,” Sanrawat said. “We haven’t conceded as many goals, even as our opponents tried to intensify their attacks, and we can counter-punch at any time. This is a new dimension in Thai football.”
Among the Thai team, Sanrawat has created by far the most scoring opportunities – 11 – for his teammates and has made the highest number of passes at 220. He says he has no fear of becoming a targeted man in the double-leg semi-finals against Malaysia on Saturday and next Wednesday.
“I couldn’t care less if it is tougher for me from now on because all the attention is on me. If other teammates are less marked and we win, I’m fine with that,” added the player from Samut Prakan.
“With the number of goals we have scored, fans should be happy. But if they still have negative thoughts, there’s nothing we can do. For us as a team, we are all happy to achieve this,” Sanrawat said.
The Thai-Malaysian game starts at 7pm on Saturday at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur and can be viewed live on Channel 7. In the other first-leg semi-final, Philippines play host to Vietnam at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod on December 2.