Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Thailand desire ASEAN triumph

Asean Cup quest is a real challenge

Thailand have won a record eight consecutive SEA Games titles from 1993-2007 but the Thais can't say they are the major force in South East Asia as the football competition at the biennial event is an Under-23 tournament.

Thailand have to prove they are number one in the region by winning the AFF Suzuki Cup, or the Asean Cup, which is for full national sides. Thailand and Singapore have each won the tournament three times. But the Thais last won the championship five years ago while Singapore were champions in the previous two editions.

In the 2007 final, played over two legs, Singapore drew with Thailand in Bangkok for an aggregate 3-2 victory at a packed Supachalasai stadium.

Although, the Asean Cup is the smallest international event for Thailand, it is still difficult for the kingdom to win as a couple of nations in the region have made fast progress over the past few years.

Peter Reid and his men are in a confident mood after winning the three-team T&T Cup in Hanoi this month after beating North Korea 1-0 and drawing 2-2 with Vietnam.

It was Reid's first tournament as Thailand coach after being appointed to the position in September. But he is likely to face a tougher assignment in the Asean Cup.

It will be a much bigger challenge for the English coach as every team wants to beat Thailand who are, rightly or wrongly, still regarded as the region's superpowers.

The tournament will be co-hosted by Thailand and Indonesia next month. Group A comprises Indonesia (hosts), Singapore, Burma and Cambodia, and Group B features Thailand (hosts), Vietnam, Malaysia and Laos.

Reid will be under pressure to deliver. Football Association of Thailand (FAT) president Worawi Makudi has targeted the title, while a large number of Thai fans still believe their national team are the big brothers in South East Asia.

The former England international knows that Thailand must win the event or he could be in hot water. "Every tournament has pressure. Our aim is to win the tournament, it gives extra pressure to our job," he said.

"But as coach, I have to try my best to bring success to Thailand in any competition."
Reid is still new to football in the region so he named compatriot Steve Darby as his assistant who could be Thailand's lethal weapon in the Asean Cup.

Darby has coached Singapore's clubs for years and is also a guest analyst for the Singapore-based ESPN/StarSport.

Thailand will begin their Asean Cup campaign on December 6 against Vietnam at Rajamangala stadium and Reid is confident that his men will finish off the Vietnamese.
Having got information about Malaysia from Darby, Reid also believes Thailand can get past Malaysia.

Although Laos are considered the weakest side in the group, the former Everton midfielder says he won't underestimate any team.

With two teams from each group reaching the semi-finals, Thailand should get past the group stage and Reid says his men are ready to take on any opponent in the last four.

Reid says Singapore may be the most dangerous side as they have a number of foreign players.
Asked if he was confident that Thailand would win the tournament, Reid said: "We have to have confidence in ourselves. The players have a good spirit and work hard. If they have a good spirit then they can beat any side."

Reid is pleased with his players' skills but is still worried about their fitness. Reid was extremely fit during his playing days and so he is concerned about the issue of stamina.

The team are training in Nakhon Ratchasima and he has been trying to improve this area of their game so that they can run for 90 minutes.

So far, Reid has enjoyed a free hand in running team and has selected his own players without interference. This is unlike in the past when certain FAT officials wanted the coach to pick their players for the national squad.

It seems that Thailand under Reid are on the right track and Reid has to prove that by guiding them to win the Asean Cup before thinking about the 2014 World Cup.

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