Strengths – Thai coach Milovan Rajevac has been extremely secretive regarding the team preparation but there is no doubt that the return of the 3 foreign-based players (Chanathip Songkrasin, Teerasil Dangda and Theerathon Bunmathan) are a massive boost to the squad. Striker Teerasil is the only survivor from Thailand’s last venture in the Asian Cup 12 years ago. He was handed the captains’ armband for this tournament and Thailand will have to depend on his experience and goal scoring instinct if they wish to succeed.
Elsewhere, Theerathon offers creativity from the flank and is deadly from set piece situations. Meanwhile attacking midfielder Chanathip will be looking to create chances with his vision and quick feet. Already regarded as one of, if not the, best Thai footballer ever, despite only being 25 years old. Chanathip has netted 9 times for J league side Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo this season, as is the player India would want to keep quiet.
Weaknesses – Thailand are heading into the 2019 Asian Cup without their preferred keeper, Kawin Thamsatchanan of Belgium 2nd tier side OH Leuven, who will miss the tournament due to a foot injury. His replacements, Chatchai Budprom and Siwarak Tedsungnoen, both looked uneasy during the recent AFF Cup, causing concern amongst Thai fans. At the continental stage, any slight error will be punished. Therefore, whoever starts must step up their game, or it could cause major issues for the War Elephants.
Player to Watch (with explanation) – Teerasil Dangda
Nothing short of a victory will suffice for Thailand in this fixture, meaning that the side will need goals. Nobody in the squad is more prolific in that sense than Teerasil Dangda. All eyes will be on the striker who just came off a decent season, scoring 7 goals and 4 assists as Sanfrecce Hiroshima finished runners-up in the J league. Adisak Kraisorn may have just won the AFF Cup golden boot a few weeks ago, but his overall play and fitness level is incomparable with Teerasil’s.
Strengths – India biggest strengths must be their squad cohesion and strong mentality. Head coach Stephen Constantine is now stepping into his 4th year in charge of ‘The Blue Tigers’. During this time he has moulded a side that believes in the game plan and willing to execute the prepared tactics to perfection. And although they are the 2nd youngest squad in the tournament, the team is solid and pressure won’t get to them easily as evidenced by their latest friendly, a 0-0 draw away at China.
Weaknesses – Experience is a huge question mark on this Indian side, not only because of their youth but also due to the fact that all of their players a based domestically. Although growing quickly, the Indian Super League is still not one of Asia’s best. It’ll be interesting whether or not the occasion will get to the players on match day.
Player to Watch (with explanation) – Sunil Chhetri
The charismatic Sunil Chhetri is the man to watch for India. The 34 year old striker holds the record for the most caps and most goals for his nation. He and goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was part of India’s 2011 Asian Cup team. Their experience is invaluable to this young team.
The outcome of this game could go either the way and whoever wins will likely qualify for the knockout stages. Thailand seem slightly better in terms of players’ quality, but Rajevac’s tactics mean that they often struggle when facing a solid opponent who set out to frustrate them, as India will likely plan to do. A low scoring draw is likely on the cards.