BANGKOK (20 Nov 2012) – Ten goals in the last two matches and with striker Teerasil Dangda as well as midfielder Datsakorn Thonglao back in their usual colour, a heavy burden of expectation is on Thailand to regain the ASEAN crown they won for three editions in 1996, 2000 and 2002.
From a side that has been relatively on the quiet since the AFF Suzuki Cup 2010 left to concentrate on the hugely popular Thai Premier League, the Thais in the course of the last few weeks have emerged as among the frontrunner for the ASEAN crown this year.
What more considering the manner with which they dumped defending champions Malaysia on a hot and balmy night in Bangkok to at once portend that the Thais might just be back at their usual best.
This in turn has put the pressure on Winfried Schaefer, the man given the leash to turn a side of gifted individuals to a fighting unit able to return to the dominance they once showed not too long ago.
Starting by winning the AFF Suzuki Cup – three days before Christmas.
“Of course, winning the trophy is important. I have worked as coach in many countries for many years and there is always pressure,” said the German coach.
“If you are to become successful, the most important thing is we must be well-prepared and work hard. We will do our best to win the AFF Suzuki Cup.”
But Schaefer knows that for Thailand to return to the path of glory, they first have to unlock the Philippines – their first opponent in Group A with the others being Myanmar and then Vietnam, in that order.
“They (the Philippines) are well-prepared for the tournament. They have strong and tall overseas-based players,” said Schaefer.
“They seem to have a good system and their players understand each other well. So we must not underestimate them. We still have time to prepare for the match against them. But if our key players are fit and play according to our plan, then I’m sure that we will win.”