Thailand opened their 2020 AFC U23 Championship campaign with a stunning 5-0 victory over hapless Bahrain.

The tournament hosts put a disappointing SEA Games performance behind them as they put on a show of attacking verve, spearheaded by the Buriram United trio of Suphacok Sarachat, Suphanat Mueanta and Supachai Jaided.

Despite the scoreline, there were some anxious moments when the War Elephants were 2-0 up and only Suphanat’s second goal of the evening with 11 minutes remaining allowed the crowd to relax.

Here are three things we learned from Thailand’s victory.

  1. Suphanat passes another test

He has been the Thai League’s youngest scorer, he is Thailand’s youngest ever international, he is the youngest ever scorer in the AFC Champions League and on Wednesday Suphanat became the youngest ever scorer in an AFC U23 Championship match.

The 17-year-old is well on track to surpass the achievements of the top Thai players who have recently made an impact in Japan. He remains at a very early stage in his career but the nerveless finishes for his goals were the hallmarks of a player with an instinct for scoring – something generally lacking among Thai players.

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Photo credit: Changsuek

Suphanat could have had a couple more, crashing a shot off the bar and scuffing his finish in a one-on-one, but his performance was not just about goals. This is an all-round player who can link play effectively and make clever through balls to create chances.

It may be premature to dream of the levels Suphanat can reach but this is surely the most exciting 17-year-old that Thailand has ever seen when you consider what he has already achieved.

  1. Defence remains a worry

It may seem mean-spirited to criticise a defence that has kept a clean sheet in a 5-0 victory, but this game was very much in the balance for a spell. Only a late capitulation gave the scoreline the look of a rout but if Bahrain had taken one of their many chances with the score at 2-0, it could have completely changed the complexion of the match.

The Thais could have been 4-0 up by the 40th minute had their finishing been better. Their opponents then began to pose a threat towards the end of the first half, and they were not discouraged when Supachok put Thailand 2-0 ahead at the start of the second half.

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Photo credit: Changsuek

Shinnapat Lee-Oh put in an impressive performance at the heart of the defence and Meechok Marhasaranukun was an important element of the attack from right-back. But it became far too easy for Bahrain to open up the Thai defence with simple probing balls and a series of corners were met by Bahraini players, who simply couldn’t finish off a number of chances.

Goalkeeper Korraphat Nareechan made a couple of excellent saves as Thailand hung on to their two-goal lead and relief finally came when Suphanat slotted home the third.

There were elements of the Thai defending to admire and the commitment was unquestionable. But against better opponents, they must not be so easily exposed by simple passes and they must be better organised at corners. Head coach Akira Nishino will be aware of the need to work on this before the weekend match against Australia.

  1. Game management needs some work 

For a team that has known mostly disappointment in the last couple of years, it was a pleasant surprise to be 2-0 up in such a big match. However, there was a time to weather a storm and it could have been done better by exercising a little more caution.

Thailand’s front four are experienced and talented and they tore the Bahraini defence to shreds at times. The urge to quickly move the ball forward for these guys to wreak havoc was understandable but there were times when calmer heads were required.

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Photo credit: Changsuek

When Thailand found themselves under pressure, they needed a spell of possession to kill the building momentum of their opponents. Instead, they continually went for the killer third goal, which often resulted in ambitious passes that gifted possession back to Bahrain and invited more pressure.

Age group tournaments like this are a great opportunity for teams to learn and this is one lesson that has to be learned quickly if the Thais are to follow up this match with the required results against Australia and / or Iraq.