Thailand’s attempt to make an impact at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup kicks off with a match against India on January 6th.
On Thursday, the 23-man squad was announced, with goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan the most notable omission due to injury.
Here is a look at the goalkeepers and defenders who will try and help the War Elephants emerge from Group A and progress to the last 16 and beyond.
Photo Credit: @changsuek
The Buriram United keeper had another solid season at club level as his side became champions of Thailand again, while also reaching the Round of 16 in the AFC Champions League. However, opportunities have been limited at international level due to the excellence of Kawin and the recently retired Sintaweechai Hattharainakool.
Siwarak started the recent AFF Suzuki Cup as first choice but was dropped after an uncertain performance in the 4-2 win over Indonesia. However, many expect his reinstatement as first choice in this tournament after the huge blow of losing Kawin.
Chatchai took over from Siwarak in the AFF Suzuki Cup but proceeded to mark his first start with a calamitous blunder against the Philippines. Despite this, he remained the starting keeper until Thailand’s exit against Malaysia in the semi-final.
He did, of course, endear himself to Malaysian fans by promising them a ‘nightmare’ in Bangkok before the visitors secured the 2-2 they needed to progress on away goals and left Chatchai’s bluster looking extremely ill-judged.
A curious inclusion given that he has spent most of the last year as back-up to Chatchai at Chiang Rai United. At just 24 years old, he may be there for the experience but head coach Milovan Rajevac will hope he doesn’t have to turn to him – effectively his fourth choice.
Photo Credit: @changsuek
A centre-back who has risen to prominence late in his career, winning his first cap at 30 years old and captaining the side in the recent AFF Suzuki Cup at the age of 32. The Nakhon Ratchasima skipper is a no-nonsense defender and can be expected to be one of the key men at the back.
Pansa is likely to start alongside Chalermpong. Another player who has risen to prominence relatively late in his career as a move to Buriram United in 2017 gave the 28-year-old the platform on which to gain international recognition. He was the FA Thailand’s Men’s Player of the Year in 2017 and can be a scoring threat from set pieces.
Adisorn has seen his international career stall somewhat since the appointment of Rajevac. The Muang Thong United centre-back was a key man as part of Kiatisuk Senamuang’s preferred three-man defence but has recently found himself out of favour.
He has also seen club appearances limited by injury and competition with overseas players, so he is likely to be a squad player here unless he can prove his match fitness.
The least experienced of the central defenders, Suphan has reignited his career at Suphanburi after failing to establish himself at Muang Thong United. Still just 24, he has much potential to improve but there have been no indications that he is anything other than a back-up option in the UAE.
The former Wales youth international has waited a long time for his opportunity, having been mostly overlooked by Kiatisuk. He made two starts at right-back in the AFF Suzuki Cup before surprisingly being replaced by Philip Roller for the final and decisive match against Malaysia in the semi-final.
Roller has been left out of the Asian Cup, suggesting that Mika is in Rajevac’s plans and his versatility is also an asset as he can play in the centre of defence. He can also hit a mean free-kick.
An Asian Cup squad without Tristan Do would have been unthinkable two years ago as the right wing-back had established himself as one of Thailand’s most improved players with a series of energetic performances. However, the departure of Kiatisuk and arrival of Rajevac saw Do sidelined, with the assumption being that his attacking instincts didn’t fit into the new head coach’s more defensive approach.
However, following Roller’s disappointing AFF Suzuki Cup, Do has come in from the cold. The French-born Bangkok United man may have a big part to play if Rajevac adjusts his usual system to accommodate someone with Do’s qualities.
The left wing-back has just spent the season on loan at Vissel Kobe in the J League, playing alongside Lukas Podolski and Andres Iniesta. He managed to establish himself as a regular starter for much of the season and adapted his game to meet the more disciplined defensive approach that was required of him.
Rajevac has often played him in midfield and he can be an excellent source of creativity on the left, while his set-piece delivery is superb. Theerathon will be a very important player for the Thais and fans will hope for the best from him in defence and attack.
The Buriram United left wing-back is an able deputy for Theerathon, not only in his position but also with his set-piece prowess. Korrakot scored directly from a corner against Indonesia in the AFF Suzuki Cup, an example of how his wicked inswinging deliveries can cause chaos in opposition defences.
Korrakot is not as strong in defence as Theerathon but Rajevac will have no fears about pitching him into action if required.