Thailand’s start to the 2019 AFC Asian Cup was nothing short of a calamity. A 4-1 loss to India spelled an end to Milovan Rajevac’s tenure as Thailand boss. The side now have a mountain to climb to recover from this opening day defeat under the stewardship of caretaker Sirisak Yodyardthai. Here is Football Tribe Thailand’s Obb Deewajin on five things Thailand can take away from this defeat.
Adisak is Lost on the Right
Milovan Rajevac setup in his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, fielding Adisak Kraisorn down the right flank. A few weeks ago, the 27 years old striker had just won the golden boot at the AFF Suzuki Cup, but he had to make way for captain Teerasil Dangda. The Serbian tactician has experimented with Adisak down the right before in the friendly against Trinidad and Tobago last October, with little success.
And once again, Adisak pretty much disappeared throughout the 79 minutes he was on the pitch. Question marks remain over his match fitness, having just returned from a long-term injury. He was too slow to beat anyone with pace, and he didn't have the touch to combine with teammates when pressured by the energetic India team. Adisak only runs in straight lines, something that is not an issue when playing as a goal poacher but extremely crucial while playing out wide. Without his varied runs, his game lacked another dimension, making him extremely predictable and easy to mark out of the game.
Kawin - A Huge Miss in the Heart of the Defence
The goalkeeper is crucial as a last line of defence. When you have someone everybody can trust, confidence spread through the back line, making defending much easier. Kawin Thamsatchanan is that man for Thailand, but, unfortunately, he has to sit this tournament out due to a foot injury.
Chatchai Budprom may have not made many mistakes, but he didn’t play well either. Chatchai simply doesn't offer that aura of authority and confidence that Kawin does. The scramble which led to the handball and penalty, a very controversial one, could’ve been dealt with better. Chatchai also had a communication error which almost resulted in another goal for India. It’ll be interesting to see whether he can keep his place after conceding four, or whether Buriram United’s Siwarak Tedsungnoen will get his chance.
The Players Giving Up
In football, mistakes happen and refereeing decisions can go against you. However, as a player, you are expected to keep your head up and soldier on. Sadly, all the Thai players just mentally collapsed after Sunil Chhetri's goal made it 2-1 right after half time.
Some may blame Rajevac’s tactics for undermining the players' ability to showcase their quality. But at the end of the day, whether the game plan was right or not, the players must at least be able to execute simple tasks such as receiving and passing the ball, or even just running. All it takes to run is your leg and your desire. Something the whole team threw out the window midway through the second half.
The ‘Blue Tigers’ Were Simply Hungrier
India didn’t beat Thailand 4-1 because of luck, or because Thailand was poor. The ‘Blue Tigers’ were just hungrier and more motivated than their opposition. Credit must be given to head coach Stephen Constantine who has built a solid squad that is willing to work hard and fight for one another. The South Asian giants adopted a compact shape, relentlessly pressing the technically excellent Thais to stop them from playing. After the game captain, Sunil Chhetri explained the secret to last night’s victory.
“In the first half, I thought we were playing Barcelona for some time. They were so good therefore we made sure to be brave and press them high. Make sure they don’t pass it around - and that really worked. We got the goals at the right intervals, and then we pressed high and we worked hard.”
There it is. Bravery and hard work. Simple as that.
A Hattrick of Poor Substitutions by Rajevac
Rajevac's substitutions in this game were not just poor - they were outright strange. India were 2-1 up, and Thailand needed to chase to the game for the second time. So Rajevac took central midfielder Sanrawat Dechmitr, who was one a yellow, off for left-back Korrakot Wiriyaudomsiri, shifting Theerathon Bunmathan into the middle of the park instead. Even though Theerathon does have experience in central midfield before, it was as the left-sided midfielder in a 4-3-3, not as a double pivot in a 4-2-3-1.
10 minutes later, Thailand lost possession in midfield due to miscommunication between Theerathon and Thitipan on you should drop deep to build up play. India scored. 3-1 it is. Rajevac tactical adjustment had just backfired.
Moments late, he would make another shocking substitution. This time bringing Siroch Chatthong on for Thailand’s best player, Chanathip Songkrasin. Big, fast and strong. Siroch is your typical combative type forward. Yet, Rajevac chooses to play him in midfield. Needless to say, Siroch looked completely out of place and didn’t influence the game in any shape or form. Playmaker Sumanya Purisai was brought on for the ineffective Adisak Kraisorn with 11 minutes to go but that was too little too late.