Thailand’s German coach Winfried Schaefer admits that he is wary of the Philippine Azkals whom the hosts face in the opening match of Group A of the Suzuki Cup Southeast Asian Championships at the Rajamangala National Stadium on Saturday .
Schaefer watched the Azkals beat Singapore 1-0 in a friendly in Cebu City last week and said it would not be easy to overcome the Philippines.
The Bangkok Post quoted the coach who said They are well-prepared for the tournament. They have strong and tall overseas-based players and 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.”
One of Thailand’s key players is striker Teerasil Dangda who scored a hat-trick in a friendly match against Bangladesh last Saturday.
Schaefer is feeling the pressure in football-crazy Thailand to guide his team to victory in the Suzuki Cup.
Thailand is bracketed in what may well be regarded as “the group of death” with such powerhouse teams as Vietnam, Myanmar and the Philippines while in Group B hosted by Malaysia has Singapore, Indonesia and Laos.
Schaefer told the Bangkok Post “Of course, winning the trophy is important. I have worked as coach in many countries for many years and there is always pressure.”
He said “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 Suzuki Cup.”
The top two teams from each group advance to the semi-finals, which will be played on a home-and-away basis, as will the final.
Schaefer has welcomed back striker Teerasil Dangda and midfielder Datsakorn Thonglao from injuries. Both played in Thailand’s 5-0 win over Bangladesh in a warm-up match on Saturday with Teerasil scoring a hat-trick.
The coach is reportedly keen on recalling Chonburi FC forward Pipob Onmo since he has only one accomplished striker in Dangda.
The Nation newspaper reported there is speculation that the 62 year old Schaefer would recall Chonburi captain Pipob, who initially withdrew from the team due to an injury. And the coach did not rule out the possibility of the experienced forward featuring in the team.
He said “He [Pipob] may get a recall. We’ll make the final decision three days before the start of the tournament.
Thailand have won the Southeast Asian championship three times in the last ten years but were shockingly knocked out in the first round in the previous edition which was won by Malaysia.
After his side’s 5-0 thrashing of Bangladesh in the latest warmup game on Saturday, the German trainer gave the players a day off before summoning them to the team’s hotel yesterday evening.
Schaefer warned players that any doubts about their fitness would mean they faced being axed from his final 22-man list.
“We now have 27 players, and
each of them has enough ability to be in the final 22man squad. Unfortunately, five of them will miss out on a place in the team. The physical condition of a player is a very important matter that we need to check carefully. We won’t risk including anyone who is not fit in the squad.”