National Team - Lions ● Nov 23, 2018
Opponent Spotlight: Thailand
BANGKOK-THAILAND- Pre match photo prior to AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 group B between Timor-Leste v Thailand at the Rajamangala National Stadium on November 9, 2018. Picture by Pakawich Damrongkiattisak/Lagardere Sports
SINGAPORE, 23 NOVEMBER 2018 – Coming on the back of an impressive 6-1 win over Timor-Leste on Wednesday, Singapore face regional heavyweights Thailand on Sunday evening in their final group game of the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup 2018. A win at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok will guarantee a semi-final berth for the Lions. We take a look at our next opponents…
FIFA Ranking: 121
Confederation: AFC (Asia), AFF (South East Asia)
Nickname: The War Elephants
Head Coach: Milovan Rajevac
Thailand comprises 76 provinces and has 68 million people, making it the 25th most populous country in the world. It is the ninth most visited country in the world, with one-fifth of its Gross Domestic Product estimated to be contributed by tourists.
Football and Muay Thai are the most popular sports in Thailand.
The Thailand National Team is currently ranked 121st in the world in the FIFA rankings; their highest position of 45th was achieved in 1998.
The domestic club competition in Thailand is known as Thai League 1, with the bottom three clubs being relegated to the Thai League 2.
A Thai league was introduced in 1996 and underwent major changes in 2009 to comply with regulations set by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for clubs to participate in the AFC Champions League. The league was rebranded in 2017 to be known as the Thai League 1.
Buriram United is the most successful club, winning seven domestic titles, including five of the last six editions.
Current Lions Zulfahmi Arifin and Gabriel Quak play for Thai League 1 sides Chonburi and Navy respectively.
Goalkeepers Izwan Mahbud and Hassan Sunny feature in the second division; Izwan turns out for Nongbua Pitchaya and Hassan for Army United.
AFF CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
The upcoming match is a clash between the two most dominant teams in the region, who have won a combined nine out of the 11 AFF Championship titles to date.
The Thais won the trophy in 1996, 2000, 2002, 2014 and 2016, beating Indonesia three times and Malaysia twice.
In their entire AFF Championship history, Thailand have only lost nine out of their 65 games and failed to score only on four occasions.
They have lost only three of their 38 games in the group stages at the AFF Championships and only one out of the 26 games that they have played in the tournament at home.
If the Thais lose to Singapore in the upcoming match and Indonesia are unable to beat Philippines in the other Group B match, then the Thais will face only their third group-stage exit in the history of the tournament.
HEAD TO HEAD AGAINST THE LIONS
Singapore and Thailand have met in two AFF Championship finals – in 2007 and 2012.
Both encounters were positive for the Lions as they held on to their first-leg victories at home to lift the trophy at the Suphachalasai Stadium in Bangkok.
However, Thailand have never lost to Singapore in the group stages in the competition, winning three out of their four encounters.
Past meetings between Singapore and Thailand at the AFF Championship:
1996 (Group stage): Singapore 0-1 Thailand (National Stadium, Singapore)
2002 (Group stage): Singapore 1-1 Thailand (National Stadium, Singapore)
2007 (Final): Singapore 2-1 Thailand (National Stadium, Singapore)
Thailand 1-1 Singapore (Suphachalasai Stadium, Bangkok)
2012 (Final): Singapore 3-1 Thailand (Jalan Besar Stadium, Singapore)
Thailand 1-0 Singapore (Suphachalasai Stadium, Bangkok)
2014 (Group stage): Singapore 1-2 Thailand (National Stadium, Singapore)
2016 (Group stage): Singapore 0-1 Thailand (Philippine Sports Stadium, Bocaue)
Outside of the AFF Championship, the Lions recorded a memorable victory against Thailand in Bangkok in 2009 in an AFC Asian Cup Qualifying match. An Aleksandar Duric goal gave Singapore a 1-0 victory – their first over Thailand in Bangkok in 34 years. Singapore have not beaten the Thais in Bangkok since then.
FORMPrior to this Suzuki Cup, Thailand’s form in 2018 had been indifferent, playing winning two and losing once in their five matches.
As part of their immediate preparations, they played two friendly matches in October against Hong Kong and Trinidad and Tobago, winning both games 1-0.
After the first three games of the AFF Suzuki Cup, the Thais sit on top of Group B with seven points and a superior goal difference.
They beat Timor-Leste 7-0 in their opening match, which saw striker Adisak Kraisorn score a whopping six goals.
They went on to beat Indonesia 4-2, before they were held to a 1-1 draw against the Philippines on Wednesday evening. The Thais took the lead against the Azkals on 51 minutes through a Supachai Jaided goal, but were pegged back nine minutes from time and were denied victory.
The coach of the Thai squad is Milovan Rajevac. The Serbian has been with the Thai squad since April 2017 and is the second oldest coach in the tournament at 64 years.
The former footballer started his coaching career in 1989 with Borak Cacek in the Serbian league. After ten years with various clubs in Serbia, Rajevac ventured into Asia and took up assistant coaching roles in China with Beijing Guoan and in Qatar with Al-Sadd.
He took his first National Team job when he became the Head Coach of Ghana in August 2008. He ensured Ghana’s qualification for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and led the country in the showpiece event.
His side was beaten in cruel circumstances against Uruguay in the quarter-finals, losing in a penalty shootout, with the match best remembered for Uruguay’s Luis Suarez blocking the ball on the goal-line with his hand.
After the World Cup, Rajevac took up other National Team jobs with Qatar and Algeria before landing the Thailand position.
Having signed a contract extension earlier this year, Rajevac will be looking to lead the Thai team at the AFC Asian Cup 2019 in January next year.
Much has been made about the “weaker” Thai squad selected for this year’s tournament. Players like Chanathip Songkrasin, who was the Most Valuable Player of the 2014 and 2016 editions, Theerathon Bunmathan and Teerasil Dangda were excluded due to their parent clubs not releasing them.
From the 23-man squad, only three of the players – Mongkol Tossakrai, Pokklaw Anan and Tanaboon Kesarat – were from the 2016 title-winning squad.
The squad is not filled with up-and-coming youngsters either, possessing an average age of 26.74 years, which is one of the oldest in the competition. All ply their trade locally, either in Thai League 1 or 2.
One key player to look out for is Adisak, 27. The Muangthong United striker added to his six-goal heroics against Timor-Leste with a strike against Indonesia and is leading the race for the Golden Boot.
A potential partner in attack for Adisak is Supachai. The 19-year old Buriram United forward is the youngest player in the Thai team and has featured in all three matches in the tournament so far, scoring two goals.
Attacking midfielder Sanrawat Dechmitr, nicknamed “Camp”, has been singled out as the Thais’ offensive fulcrum by Lions left-back Zulfahmi Arifin and needs to be kept quiet as well.
Goalkeepers: Sirawak Tedsungnoen, Chatchai Budprom, Saranon Anuin
Defenders: Korrakot Wiriyaudomsiri, Manuel Bihr, Mika Chunuonsee, Philip Roller, Chalermpong Kerdkaew, Pansa Hemviboon, Kevin Deeromram, Suphan Thongsong
Midfielders: Mongkol Tossakrai, Pokklaw Anan, Tanaboon Kesarat, Sanrawat Dechmitr, Thitipan Puangchan, Sumanya Purisai, Nurul Sriyankem, Pakorn Prempak, Sasalak Haiprakhon
Forwards: Adisak Kraisorn, Chananan Pombuppha, Supachai Jaided