Beleaguered Thailand are plotting an unlikely escape from elimination, starting with a win against Kuwait in their penultimate Asian Cup qualifier today.
With only two games remaining, the struggling Thais are yet to get off the mark in Group B, with a run of four straight defeats leaving them on the brink of elimination. Nothing less than a win at Kuwait SC stadium will save Thailand from a second successive group-stage exit, after they missed the finals in Qatar two years ago.
The Thais’ chances of securing a berth for the 16-team finals in two years’ time would have been all but over had second-placed Kuwait not drawn their match against Lebanon at home on Friday. However, even if they do pull off a win in Kuwait City, the Thai side will see their chances all but disappear if hosts Lebanon upset leaders Iran, who need only a draw to ensure their qualification.
Should the Thais – whose last appearance in the finals was as co-hosts in 2007 – miss out on one of two qualifying spots in the group, they still have another route to qualify as the best third-placed team. However, this looks unlikely as Syria, Malaysia and Hong Kong have already claimed four points from four matches to sit third in their respective groups.
The Thais are still finding their feet under new coach Surachai Juturapattarapong, who took over in August following the departure of German trainer Winfried Schaefer, and the 43-year-old admitted the Kuwait match was an acid test. However, he refused to rule out his side’s chances of notching up an unlikely win.
“Though we have not yet been eliminated, we have to accept that it is now very, very difficult to make it through to the finals.
“Nevertheless, if we can win our final two matches starting with the Kuwait game tomorrow, I believe we still have a chance to snatch qualification as the best third-placed team. We will definitely give it everything,” said the former national midfielder.
The Thais are without their key Buriram United quartet, including defender Prathum Chutong and midfielder Suchao Nutnum, who have returned to their club to prepare for the League Cup final on Saturday. Both featured in the 3-0 home loss to Iran.
Surachai, though, will have Bangkok Glass forward Teeratep “Leesaw” Winothai available for selection again after his four-match suspension.
In the previous 10 encounters between the two sides, Thailand have won four and Kuwait six. TrueVisions’ Truesport2 channel will televise the match live from 10.35pm.