UAE 2019 is the target, says Thailand coach Rajevac
Hong Kong: Thailand coach Milovan Rajevac insists the aim is to make history at AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 ahead of Thursday's friendly against Hong Kong.
Without Japan and Europe-based stars Chanathip Songkrasin, Teerasil Dangda, Theerathon Bunmathan and Kawin Thamsatchanan, Thailand will have a new-look side when they face Hong Kong on October 11 and Trinidad and Tobago on October 14.
However, coach Rajevac (below) is convinced the games will serve as vital build-up for the War Elephants, with important challenges to come in the months ahead with the 2018 AFF Championship and AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 looming large.
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What do you hope to gain from the the upcoming friendly matches at Hong Kong and at home to Trinidad and Tobago?
It’s a test that we want before the two competitions. One of the matches is away, which is important as we will play some away matches at the AFF Cup and we want to see how the players function and prepare and perform mentally away from home.
We haven't had a lot time to prepare for these matches and you cannot push too much, especially because of the proximity of the matches but it is definitely a good opportunity to look at some players.
Have the disappointing performances of the Thailand U23 side at this year’s AFC U23 Championships and Asian Games convinced you that many of these players are not ready for the step up to the senior team?
Not at all. My favourite recipe is a mixture of experienced players and young players. You have to include some young players because they add depth to the squad and add some quality.
There are always some young players who are ready for the big stage and the toughest challenges.
We have to remember that most young players cannot maintain good form for a long time. They have ups and downs and this is also an important factor for us to assess them well and to see how they respond under pressure and when they are tired.
We also have to consider how we can refresh them and boost their confidence. I am sure that I will be able to field a good team consisting of experienced and young players who are able to cope with this level of competition.
How important is it to have a positive performance at next month's AFF Championship to keep morale high ahead of the AFC Asian Cup in January?
Everything is about the result. Performances can vary when we have many matches. It is normal, even for the big teams, to have their ups and downs. In the end, the result will be the fact that helps maintain a positive atmosphere.
The AFF Championship is an important competition, but the main target is the AFC Asian Cup. This is the most important competition for this whole generation of players and they can make their mark there and prove themselves on the big stage against the biggest teams.
The goal there is to go to the last 16, which would be a great result for Thailand and after that, to try to do something even bigger if it is possible. It is an opportunity to make some history for Thai football.
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