Naruephon counting on fans to drive Thailand
Chonburi: Thailand will make the most of their status as the 2019 AFC U-16 Women’s Championship hosts according to head coach Kaenson Naruephon, who urged local fans to throw their support behind his young players.
Naruephon’s comments came after the tournament’s official draw on Thursday, where Thailand were placed alongside Australia, Bangladesh and three-time champions Japan in what looms as a hotly-contested Group A.
Meanwhile, 2017 finalists DPR Korea and Korea Republic will meet in Group B, which also includes China PR and Vietnam.
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Looking ahead to September’s Finals, Naruephon revealed his belief that playing on home soil could make all the difference for his side.
“The advantage (for Thailand) is the weather, and also the fans who will give us support,” he told the-AFC.com.
“We will use the support from the fans as the driver for our achievements.”
Thursday’s draw capped an eventful week for the 47-year-old boss, who led Thailand to the AFF U-15 Women’s Championship title with a tense penalty shootout win over Laos, also in Chonburi, on Tuesday.
While Thailand have enjoyed a near-constant presence at the top levels of the women’s game in the ASEAN region, they have found silverware at the Continental level more difficult to come by.
Also hosts of the AFC U-16 Women’s Championship in 2017, the Thais got off to a strong start with a 3-0 win over Laos, but heavy back-to-back losses against Korea Republic and China PR ended their bid for a third successive semi-final appearance.
Encouraged by his side’s draw this time around, a confident Naurephon revealed his belief that Thailand could be one of the two Asian sides to qualify for the 2020 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, joining already-qualified hosts India.
““I’m happy with the (draw) result because we have a chance to be in the next stage,” he declared.
“The Thailand team will try to perform better than (2017), and the aim is to be in the World Cup”.
The AFC U-16 Women’s Championship Thailand 2019 begins on September 15, with the Asian champions to be decided in the final in Chonburi on September 28.