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Nishino: Thailand will be ready

Bangkok: Head coach Akira Nishino isn't ready to set a target yet for Thailand in the AFC U23 Championship 2020 next January. 

Thailand will host 15 teams from January 8-26 and besides regional glory, the fourth edition of the Championship is also offering three spots in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The young War Elephants were drawn with 2013 champions Iraq, Australia and debutants Bahrain, who they will play their Group A opener against, in Thursday's official draw in Bangkok.

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“At this moment, we are not in a position to make any comments on our opponents,” said Nishino, who guided Japan to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Round of 16.

“We are still developing the team. We do know that each team is competitive, but we haven’t done any analysis yet, which we will work on and then do our best.”

Appointed to lead the senior team in July, and now the U-23 team, Nishino admitted the dual role is challenging.

He is also handling Thailand's Asian Qualifiers campaign for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023, with the Southeast Asians having played to a 0-0 draw with Vietnam and defeated Indonesia 3-0 in their opening matches.

Nishino will also be in charge for the 2019 Manila SEA Games in November, where Thailand will be bidding for a fourth consecutive gold medal and 17th overall.

“It’s difficult to handle both teams, but I have my assistant coach, who will be taking care of the U23 team.

“Only after the SEA Games and Asian Qualifiers in November, will I put all my focus on preparing the U23 squad for this Championship.”

AFC U23 Thailand 2020: Draw Highlights

Thailand will be making their third appearance in the AFC U23 Championship Finals, having failed to advance past the group stage in their previous campaigns.

Playing at home will be an advantage but Nishino also understands the pressure of meeting expectations.

“Of course, there is pressure (as hosts). If you are a coach, you’re constantly facing pressure and I’m passionate in trying my best.

“In our preparation towards the Finals, I will give my best. It will be challenging but we will be ready for the AFC U23 Championship.”

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