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Thailand's Nishino proud of his players

Bangkok: Head coach Akira Nishino believes his Thailand players have proved themselves more than capable of competing with Asia’s finest after they reached the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020 quarter-finals following Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Iraq.

Jaroensak Wonggorn’s first-half penalty ultimately proved enough for the Thais to advance to the last eight as runners-up in Group A following last week’s win over Bahrain and loss to table-topping Australia.

With Thailand now set to face the winners of Group B in the knockout phase, Nishino wasted little time in praising his charges after a night of high drama at the Rajamangala Stadium.

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“It is great that we went through, the players have excelled and we are delighted to have made it through to the last eight,” declared the Japanese tactician.

“As we are the host nation, the players have been very motivated and throughout our three [group stage] games I believe the players have absolutely proved themselves and that they will continue to do just that.

“They have held their own against very experienced sides and it has been a terrific learning experience for them.”

However, despite Thailand progressing from the group stage for the first time in three attempts, Nishino remains adamant that there is still some room for improvement.

“At this tournament, I believe the team is beginning to understand exactly how we want them to play football, the style we want to use,” he said.

“Having said that, we still need to improve specific areas of our game and we will be looking to work on our weaknesses going into the next match.”

#AFCU23 - MD3 Group A: Thailand 1-1 Iraq

Meanwhile, Iraq coach Abdulghani Shahad was left to rue missed opportunities as his side recorded a third successive draw en route to exiting the tournament.

“We played a very hard game against Thailand who are the host nation,” he said. “We thought we had our chances to score, especially in the last 10 minutes but unfortunately we couldn’t convert those opportunities.”

“Maybe that inability to find the net was down to the relative inexperience of our strikers, nevertheless, we have brought new players into the squad for this competition and that bodes well for the future of the Iraq senior team.”

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