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All You Need To Know: Thailand


Kuala Lumpur: Four years on from their memorable debut on the world stage, Thailand have again achieved FIFA Women’s World Cup qualification, but a demanding draw means they will need to scale new heights in order to remain competitive in France.

With just one day remaining until the France 2019 fiesta begins, the-AFC.com tells you all you need to know about Thailand.

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The Facts

World ranking: 34
FIFA Women’s World appearances: 2 (2015, 2019)
Best result: Group stage (2015)
Canada 2015: Group stage (3 points, -7 goal difference)
Group stage opponents: United States, Sweden, Chile (Group F)

 

All You Need To Know - Thailand

Road to France

After beating Palestine (6-1) and Chinese Taipei (1-0) way back in the first week of April 2017 to qualify for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, Thailand managed to avoid the Continental heavyweights in the group stage in Jordan, where they qualified for a second successive World Cup with convincing wins over the host nation (6-1) and Philippines (3-1).

What the Thailand team at Jordan 2018 is best remembered for is coming close to pulling off one of the tournament’s biggest ever upsets, with goals to Kanjana Sung-Ngoen and Rattikan Thongsombut putting the Chaba Kaew on the verge of a semi-final win against Australia.

Thailand conceded in the dying seconds before losing that match on penalties following a 2-2 draw, then rounded out their campaign with a 3-1 loss to China PR in the play-off for third.

Head coach: Nuengrutai Srathongvian

A coaching stalwart of Thailand women’s programme at various levels for more than a decade, Nuengrutai guided her country to a historic win over Côte d’Ivoire at Canada 2015, but she was reassigned to an assistant role following that tournament, only returning to the top job In September 2017.

The 47-year-old reflected on her road to back to the head coaching role upon sealing qualification for France 2019, saying: “I’m always proud, no matter what role I’m in, Last year I was in the staff, now I’m the head coach, but every time we wear this shirt it gives us something special, so I’m very proud and very happy to be involved.”

While Nuengrutai is at the helm, Thailand have also recently called on ultra-experienced Dutch coach Vera Pauw, who has been involved throughout the pre-tournament build-up in an adviser role.

Pre-tournament form

With just one win in their last 12 official matches, Thailand will come into the tournament with under no illusions as to the enormity of the task ahead.

Their sole win in 2019 – a 4-0 thrashing of Hungary at the Cyprus Cup – showed Thailand’s ability to find the net against weaker opposition, and they were far from disgraced in a competitive 2-1 loss to Mexico in the following match, but since then they have been unable to stem a steady flow of opposition goals.

Sixteen conceded in the last four matches underlines the significant challenge to come, although they were well organised in the first 45 minutes of a 3-0 defeat to France, and come into the tournament having put nine goals of their own past Belgian lower league outfit Kontich FC in their final hit-out on Tuesday.

Key player: Kanjana Sung-Ngoen

Whatever happens in the next month, Kanjana Sung-Ngoen’s name has already been written into football history.

The evergreen attacker scored the two goals that took Thailand to their first ever World Cup with a win over Vietnam in 2014, then repeated the trick with two more against the Philippines to qualify four years later.

Now 32, Kanjana still possesses the pace to cause problems for opposing defences, something that will be crucial if Thailand are able to find counter-attacking joy against their illustrious group stage opponents.

Young gun: Suchawadee Nildhamrong

The 22-year-old’s path from US college soccer to the Thai national team is now well documented, but what is truly significant is the positive impact the California-raised striker – also known as Miranda Nild – brings to the Southeast Asian champions.

Twelve goals in just over two years of international football underlines her scoring threat, but her biggest asset may be her ability to play with her back to goal - providing Thailand’s attack with a physical focal point which cannot be found elsewhere.

Still going strong: Duangnapa Sritala

A veteran of five AFC Women’s Asian Cups and, now, two FIFA Women’s World Cups, Duangnapa, 33, is the oldest player in the Thailand squad.

Thirteen years into her international career, the veteran is still among Thailand’s best defenders despite standing at just 160cm tall, a full 22cm shorter than US forward and possible Matchday One opponent Jessica McDonald

Key match: v Chile

Dealt an tremendously challenging draw – against world champions the United States and Sweden, who eliminated the Americans at the 2016 Olympics – Thailand will shock the world if they are able win either of their opening two matches.

The match against Chile, in Rennes on June 20, appears more winnable for Thailand with the South American debutants also struggling for pre-tournament results with no wins in their previous nine matches.

The final word

Thailand’s feat of reaching two successive World Cups is an achievement well worth celebrating, but an overwhelmingly difficult Group F means progressing to the Round of 16 would stand alone in the chronicles of Thai football history.

The task is enormous, but this team has confounded expectations many times before, and as they showed in Jordan, they are capable of giving even the highest-rated teams a fright on their day.

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