Thais need to stay focused as troubled Indonesia seek lifeline

Victory over Indonesia would be a huge step towards the semi-final of the AFF Suzuki Cup as Thailand get ready to host the Garuda on Saturday.

The War Elephants got their defence of the title off to a convincing start with a 7-0 dismantling of hapless Timor Leste on Friday.

They should not expect such an easy ride against the talented but unpredictable Indonesians who will be backed by at least 4,000 away fans at the Rajamangala Stadium.

Thailand and their supporters will have to raise their games to ensure their bid for a third successive title remains on track. Here are five things to look out for in Saturday’s game.

  1. Adisak to continue his scoring streak 

If scoring goals is all about confidence, then Adisak Kraisorn should have bundles of it after netting a double hat trick on Matchday One. He might have been facilitated by naive defending but six goals in a game at international level is a rare achievement.

Adisak’s injury woes over the past couple of weeks have hit him hard but he responded in style with a display of clinical finishing to ease concerns that there would be no one to fill the boots of the absent Teerasil Dangda.

Indonesia’s defence will be well aware of Adisak’s threat and will make plans to contain him. But if Adisak gets the right service, there is a strong chance he will move further ahead in the competition for top scorer.

  1. Nurul’s balancing act 

Nurul Sriyankem offers this Thailand side something different in attack as his direct play down the wings or through the centre pulls teams out of shape and creates space for others.

He was the perfect foil for Adisak against Timor Leste and was involved in several of Thailand’s seven goals. However, Nurul’s habit of going to ground at the slightest contact was not tolerated by the referee, who waved him back to his feet on several occasions.

Nurul could be even more effective if he focused on keeping possession and beating defenders instead of constantly looking for free kicks and penalties. He may have been indulged too often in the Thai League where falling down is often enough for the referee to whistle.

However, the referees in this tournament are likely to use a little more judgment when it comes to assessing whether or not there is a clean tackle or a foul, rather than just an unnecessary fall.

Nurul can be a real asset to the team if he applies himself to what he does best.

  1. Sanrawat’s deep impact 

Bangkok United midfielder Sanrawat Dechmitr is something of an enigma in Thai football. Despite his obvious talent, he has never been a favourite with the Thailand fans due to his perceived lack of work ethic and inconsistency.

Such perceptions could change if Sanrawat keeps up the form he showed against Timor Leste. He seemed to grow into the role of deep-lying playmaker as the opposition defence’s high line allowed him to measure passes in behind to devastating effect.

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He might find himself under more pressure from the Indonesian midfield and their defence may not be so obliging in opening up space for him to exploit.

But Sanrawat put in a shift on Friday and provided the creative platform for a comfortable win. He could again be a key man.

  1. Beware of Indonesia backlash

Indonesia travel to Thailand realistically needing to take something from the game to maintain hope of reaching the last four.

Their unexpected defeat in Singapore on Matchday One immediately put them under pressure. With all teams expected to take three points from Timor Leste, six points is likely to be the minimum requirement to advance.

There has been turmoil in the Indonesia camp after the departure of head coach Luis Milla last month severely disrupted preparations for this tournament. There have also been fan protests against the game’s administrators in the country and there was a call for a boycott of the midweek game at home to Timor Leste.

Things appeared to be going from bad to worse in that match as the visitors took a shock lead early in the second half. Three goals in the final 30 minutes saw Indonesia avoid an upset but it was another sign of their vulnerability.

All the odds are very much in Thailand’s favour but they need to stay focused on the job at hand. The 2016 runners-up may be going through a difficult period but, without the pressure of an expectant home support, they may feel they have something to prove against the reigning champions.

  1. Thai fans must make voices heard 

Many reasons have been put forward to explain the pitiful attendance at the Rajamangala last week. Traffic-clogged roads around the stadium at rush hour didn’t help and nor did the afternoon rain storm.

The modest opposition also reduced the attractiveness of the fixture for the casual fan. And, of course, there was the absence of the overseas-based stars and Instagram favourites like Charyl Chappuis and Sarach Yooyen.

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But despite all of these factors, it was still shocking to see fewer than 10,000 in the stadium for a competitive fixture.

This is not a demoralised Thailand side like the one that last saw such attendances five years ago – this is a Thailand side aiming for a historic third successive AFF Suzuki Cup title.

They deserve much more support and they will need it against a team that will have a very passionate and noisy away following.

 

 

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