Thailand’s under-23 coach Alexandre Gama says the pressure is all on Group K members Brunei, Indonesia and hosts Vietnam as they head into in the AFC Championship Qualifiers starting in Hanoi on Friday.
Gama believes Thailand can approach the games under no pressure at all, having already been handed a spot in the finals next January by virtue of being tournament hosts.
“The pressure is on the other teams in our group as they all want to reach the finals,” said the Brazilian, who has entered his team in the qualifying competition to test his players, even though he didn’t need to.
“This is, however, an important tournament for us. We’ve come here to show our potential and measure the level of our players.”
Thailand’s opening match is against Indonesia at 5pm on Friday and is being shown live on PPTV (Channel 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. The winners of each group and the four best runners-up will make it through.
“We have respect for all the teams in group K – they are all dangerous,” added Gama, the former Buriram and Chiang Rai United coach. “Indonesia just won the Asean under 23 [last month], while Vietnam are the hosts and Brunei are a strong team.
“For Thailand, we’ve come here knowing that we need to produce the best results. We need to show that we are of quality and can improve even more.”
Gama complimented the hosts for continuing their development and becoming the top football nation in this region, having won the 2018 Asean Cup and reached the quarter-finals of last month’s Asian Cup.
“Vietnam have improved a lot recently but Thailand still remain a strong team,” Gama added. “My job is to help regain the confidence of the players. We have to change their attitude –that is the key.”
Despite not having his full choice of players – some are away with the senior squad at the China Cup in Nanning – Gama is confident his side will impressive in Hanoi.