AFC Asian Cup 2019: What you need to know before Thailand v India
In a knockout tournament, setting the momentum right by winning the first game is extremely crucial. Thankfully for India, they will begin their campaign against a team that Indian fans would consider the weakest in the group – Thailand. However, 118th ranked team shouldn’t be taken lightly. On their day, the ‘War Elephants’ can justify their nickname by destroying any given opposition. Having won as many as five AFF Championship titles, they are rightfully called the most dangerous team of Southeast Asia.
Formed in 1915 as the Siam national football team, they played their first Summer Olympics match back in 1956 against Great Britain. Though they didn’t have much success in the Olympics, commendable performances against Qatar and China PR in the 1992 AFC Asian Cup and brought them fame and glory. In the 2000 edition of the tournament, they held mighty Iran to a 1-1 draw.
Thailand is coached by the experienced Serbian coach, Milovan Rajevac. Rajevac has been in charge of reputed International teams like Ghana and Algeria, and also of Red Star Belgrade, a side that participates in UEFA Champions League. With Thailand, Rajevac likes to roll out a 4-3-3 formation. The attacking formation adds a certain fluidity to their game and also allows them to score plenty. They have scored 17 goals in their last 6 games.
Thailand’s current form has been pretty impressive with just two losses in 2018, that too against strong teams like Slovakia and China PR. They defeated formidable sides like Philippines and Singapore in the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup and could have gone on to win the tournament had it not been for a narrow semi-final defeat against Malaysia that was decided on away goals.
Three players to watch out for:
Operating in the three-man midfield, Thitipan Puangchan is a pretty swift operator. The BG Pathum United FC player has already scored five goals for his nation, the joint fourth-highest amongst the 23 players. Another reliable source of getting goals is Adisak Kraisorn, popularly known as Golf.
The 27-year-old Muangthong FC striker has scored 16 goals in 33 appearances for his nation, 8 of which came in this year from just 6 appearances. Owing to his superb form, he can be a headache for Sandesh Jhingan & Co.
Finally, we turn our attention to Teerasil Dangda, the experienced leader of the flock. Playing for the well-known Japanese club Sanfrecce Hiroshima, a side that is currently second-placed in the J1 league, Dangda has scored six goals already this season. For his nation, he has netted 42 times in 95 appearances. Dangda was left out of the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup but has reunited with the squad in an attempt to increase his goal tally.
First-choice goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan’s injury will pave the way for Chatchai Budprom to start in goal. The backline is expected to be filled by Theerathon Bunmathan, Chalermpong Kerdkaew, Pansa Hemviboon, and Korrakot Wiriyaudomsiri. Placed right ahead of them might be midfielders Thitipan Puangchan, Sanrawat Dechmitr, and Tanaboon Kesarat. The strong midfield will support the three trusted men up front – Adisak Kraisorn, Teerasil Dangda, and Supachai Jaided. Jaided, the 20-year-old youngster has impressed his coach with his performances in the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup.
Head-to-head record against India:
Look away Indian football enthusiasts, for stats are not in your favor. Out of the 23 times these two teams have faced each other, the Blues have emerged as winners in only five occasions. Thailand has won eleven of such encounters, while seven have ended with both sides sharing spoils. To add to India’s misery, they have lost six of the seven last matches, drawing the other one.
If we are to predict the outcome of the game by looking at stats, the obvious and practical answer will be a victory for Thailand. If we are to judge by looking at the FIFA rankings of the nations, the prediction will be in India’s favor. I will opt to be a bit optimistic here, given how Stephen Constantine’s men have performed in the recent games, and predict a narrow victory for the Indian team. With some great strikers in their team, Thailand might get a goal, but my prediction will be 2-1 in favor of India.
Match Date: 6th January 2019
Match Time(IST): 7 pm
Match Venue: Al Nahyam Stadium