Thailand midfielder Thitipan Puangchan insists team spirit is still strong despite the current turmoil and the daunting task facing the players to stay alive in the Asian Cup.
A dismal opening-game 4-1 defeat by India led to the sacking of coach Milovan Rajevac and cast the War Elephants as rank outsiders to progress to the knockouts.
However, Thitipan, 25, nicknamed New, believes his teammates’ confidence has not been shaken as they have the opportunity to bounce back against Bahrain this evening (6pm Thailand time) and against hosts the United Arab Emirates next Monday. Today’s game is being shown live on Channel 7 and Fox Sports HD.
“We all know our duties and the target that lies ahead,” said the Bangkok Glass player, who has netted five times for his country since earning the first of his 24 caps six years ago. “We will maximise our efforts to win points from the remaining games.”
The top two teams in each of the six groups, plus the four best third-placed teams will advance to the round of 16 so the generous format means only eight nations out of 24 will go home early.
To progress, the War Elephants will need at least four points out of a possible six – a win and a draw – in the next two matches and Thitipan says there’s every reason to be optimistic.
“Our situation is not so bad as there are still two games left,” he said. “I believe that if things go our way and our players play to their potential, we can be competitive with both Bahrain and the UAE. We will work hard in order to move towards the right direction.”
Thitipan said he had watched the 1-1 draw between Bahrain and the UAE on Saturday and it made him realise the size of the task facing Thailand this evening.
“They [Bahrain] are very tough and almost beat the UAE. We need to study their strengths and weaknesses thoroughly. However, there’s nothing to lose at this point. We really need the three points as well [as Bahrain],” he added.
Meanwhile Thai FA president Somyot Poompanmoung says the next full-time national coach could be either a Thai or a foreigner.
Rajevac’s former assistant, Sirisak Yodyadthai, has been appointed interim coach for the rest of the Asian Cup.
“The new coach must be a qualified person who is willing to work and comply with the requirements of the Thai FA,” Somyot said.