Thailand under-23 coach Alexandre Gama is confident his side will be fully prepared for the upcoming AFC Championship qualifiers, which will be played in Hanoi from March 22 to 26.
A total of 44 Asian nations are competing to take part in next January’s finals in Thailand, made up of 11 four-nation groups in 11 host countries.
Each of the group winners will make it through, as well as the four best runners-up.
Thailand, who are in the same group as Brunei and Indonesia and Group K hosts Vietnam, decided to take part in the qualifiers despite having an automatic berth into the 2020 finals as the host country. If Thailand also qualify on merit, the fifth best runner-up will also be given a place.
Brazilian coach Gama said he has selected the best of the Kingdom’s rising stars, including star striker Supachai Jaided plus key midfielders Supachoke Sarachat and Worachit Kanitsribampen.
“We’ve chosen only the best players based on their experience,” said the 51-year-old Gama, a former assistant coach of South Korea. “Many have a lot of experience, especially in international tournaments.
Gama has an impressive CV in Thailand, having led Buriram United to two Thai Premier League titles (in 2014 and 2015) as well as enjoying multiple other success with them and as coach of Chiang Rai United.
However, he accepted that he has had very limited time to work with his players –they only start training together on Monday, just 11 days ahead of their opening qualifier against Indonesia.
“Although we only have a few days to prepare the team, the players should already be fit as they have to train and to play in Thai League games. I believe in their potential,” said Gama.
Thailand will play Brunei on March 24 and Vietnam two days later. All games will take place at the My Dinh National Stadium and can be watched live on PPTV and Channel 36.
“Although we already have a spot in the finals, I’m still hungry for victory and I hope every player feels the same. No game is easy in this region these days. I want to test how the players will handle high-level games,” Gama added.