Thailand’s new head coach faces a tough test in his first game in charge as the War Elephants host Vietnam in a 2022 World Cup Group G qualifier on Thursday.

The second round begins with a repeat of the fixture that the Thais dominated in the 2018 campaign. But much has changed in four years, with Vietnam and Thailand now looking very evenly matched.

The Golden Stars have their own golden generation and will be confident of taking something in Thailand, having won 1-0 in the recent King’s Cup match in Buriram.

Here are three things to look out for as Nishino tries to work out the best formation for the playing resources at his disposal

  1. Muddle over men at the back

Thailand reverted to a 3-5-1-1 formation following the departure of Milovan Rajevac, who had favoured 4-2-3-1. Having three at the back allowed Thailand to use the attacking instincts of Theerathon Bunmathan and Tristan Do in the wide areas.

Central defensive options are, as usual, limited. Pansa Hemviboon is likely to start, while Adisorn Promrak’s experience may see him get the nod despite often failing to start for his club Muang Thong United this year.


Photo credit: Changsuek

Manuel Bihr and Shinnaphat Lee-oh are other options if they go for three in the centre but Bihr has been capped just four times while Shinnaphat is still uncapped. You have to assume that Do and Theerathon will be first choices but who makes up the central area is up for debate.

Shoddy Thailand defending and sometimes goalkeeping have seen Thailand fail to compete with Asia’s best so Nishino’s selections in this area will be absolutely vital. The country is not spoiled for defensive talent so organisation and tactics will have to be spot-on.

  1. Form or favour for middle men?

 Since 2014, Tanaboon Kesarat has been a first-choice pick for Thailand, either as a defensive midfielder or centre-back. He has already earned 47 caps at the age of just 25 but could it be time for him to take a step back to recover the form that he has never really shown since suffering a serious injury in 2017?

He has always been unconvincing at centre-back and recent performances at the heart of the Thai midfield have been unimpressive. Peeradol Chamratsamee would surely be a better choice alongside Thitiphan Puangchan at the base of the midfield.


Photo credit: Changsuek

Further forward, Chanathip Songkrasin will be the main man as he is given freedom to run the Vietnam defence ragged. There will have to be players in there to protect him as the Consadole Sapporo playmaker will surely be targeted by a physical Vietnam side.

It would be good to see Bodin Phala given a chance and Sasalak Haiprakhon’s consistency should also make him a strong contender for place in any three-man attacking midfield. Sasalak alternates between wing-back and centre-midifeld for Buriram United but would certainly have the right qualities to play in a more advanced role.

Thailand are spoiled for choice when it comes to the more offensive midfield roles so a balance between guile and grit is vital.

  1. Supachai’s time to shine

It was thought that 2019 would be the year in which Supachai Jaided really established himself as the next big thing in Thai football. 2018 had been a breakthrough year both at club and international level and his goal in the 2019 Asian Cup Round of 16 match against China was evidence of his ability to deliver under pressure.

However, it has been a patchy season in the Thai League for the 20-year-old. While he rarely plays in his preferred role as an out-and-out striker, just two league goals is a poor return for an attacking player. He has been usurped by Buriram United’s child prodigy Suphanat Mueanta who, at 17, has netted seven times in the league and also notched a goal in the AFC Champions League.


Photo credit: Changsuek

With Teerasil Dangda injured and Adisak Kraisorn unable to get a game for Muang Thong, Supachai is the only recognized striker in the Thailand squad and even he often plays elsewhere for his club.

It is a problem area for Nishino but it seems that Supachai has been identified as the man to lead the line and pose a physical threat. If he can recapture the confidence he had last year, he could make a big impact. He will, however, have to keep the head. Vietnam players may target his suspect temperament having seen him sent off for violent conduct against their U23 side earlier this year.