Thailand are preparing to risk fielding injured star striker Suphawut Thueanklang against Paraguay in Group A today in a desperate bid to secure a berth in the knockout phase of the Futsal World Cup.
The Thai team began their campaign with a bang by clinching a convincing 3-1 victory over Concacaf champions Costa Rica, but they were sent back down to earth by a 5-3 defeat at the hands of Ukraine on Sunday.
Heading into the final round of group fixtures, the hosts are in third spot with three points, just behind the Costa Ricans on goals scored and a point adrift of leaders Ukraine.
A win over bottom team Paraguay at Hua Mark Indoor stadium, who have only a single point from two matches, would ensure the Thais a spot in the last 16 and mean they wouldn’t have to rely on other results to advance as one of the best third-placed teams in the 24-team competition.
Most Thai fans are optimistic about their team’s chances against Paraguay, runners-up in the South America Championship, given that the South Americans were beaten 6-3 by Costa Rica, whom the hosts conquered in the opening match. However, apart from sweating on the fitness of Suphawut, who has already scored two goals in the tournament, the Thais’ task has been made even harder by the suspension of Kritsada Wongkaeo.
Paraguay, meanwhile, welcome back their own star striker Emmanuel Ayala – who scored a hat-trick in his side’s 3-3 draw with Ukraine – from a one-match ban.
Nevertheless, defender Jirawat Sornwichian remains confident the hosts will reach the knockout stages for the first time, following group-stage exits in their previous three campaigns.
“The pressure’s on Paraguay, not on us. We need to be more focused in defence, not attack too much, and control the game’s rhythm. Every Thai will be delighted if we can make it to the next round. We want to make history,” Jirawat told Fifa.com.