Football Tribe Thailand
As a Thai supporter, to say the 4-1 loss against India was disappointing would be an understatement. It was a total disgrace.
This is not to take anything away from Stephen Constantine and his boys. They were extremely solid, they wanted it more, they played for each other and executed their game plan to perfection.
It was not the defeat that got Milovan Rajevac sacked just hours after, but the manner in which the team lost.
Thailand started slowly, similar to their games during the recent AFF Cup. The side were often more sluggish when compared to the opposition. The Blue Tigers chased down every ball and sprung into quick, ferocious counter-attacks with direct passes. Theerathon Bunmathan’s sloppy clearance gave India their chance, and miscommunication at the back allowed captain Sunil Chhetri to fire in the lead from the penalty spot.
Even though Thailand equalized through Teerasil Dangda, it soon amounted to nothing due to a similarly slow start to the second half. India took the lead for a second time, once again through Chhetri. Theerathon was again at fault, being caught upfield, leaving space and time in the Thai left-back area.
Everything went downhill from there, including 3 controversial substitutions by Milovan Rajevac. His decision to sub off Chanatip Songkrasin and bring on big man Siroch Chatthong as a central midfielder has since been heavily criticised by fans and journalists alike. The players clearly gave up, and it was a walk in the park for India as they finished the game 4-1.
While the scoreline may come as a bit of a surprise, I just can’t help but feel strange about the whole thing. Rajevac was supposed to bring stability, grit, and organisation to the national team. But somehow, the side that took the field did not look at all like one coached by the Serbian mastermind, both in terms of selection and style of play.
Prior to the Asian Cup, we hardly saw Rajevac field 2 attacking fullbacks in the same starting lineup. Even against a minnow like Timor-Leste, Korrakot Wiriyaudomsiri and Phillip Roller (although attacking by nature) were told to keep it conservative. AFF Suzuki Cup Golden Boot winner Adisak Kraisorn looked lost as a makeshift right-winger. While Sanrawat Dechmitr, the AFF Suzuki Cup king of assists, drop into central midfield alongside box-to-box midfielder Thitipan Puangchan. Obviously, this was to make way Chanatip Songkrasin but it could also be seen as a move to help improve build-up play.
Unfortunately, Sanrawat struggled as a deep-lying midfielder as he was being pressed relentlessly by the opposition. He was often isolated in midfield when Thitipan surged forward. Sanrawat’s lack of mobility and defensive instinct meant he is ineffective in preventing counter-attacks, especially down both flanks while the two fullbacks ventured forward.
It seems as though Thailand suddenly didn’t want to follow Rajevac’s pragmatic method. The starting eleven was full of attacking quality but no balance. It was a group of the country’s best individuals – but not a team.
This disagreement on how the team should play stems from the AFF Suzuki Cup. Thailand won the competition 2 times in a row and was challenging for our third. There was already discussion amongst fans pre-AFF Suzuki Cup, whether or not we stick to Rajevac’s way or go all out attack. And judging by various players’ comments, it seems they prefer to be on the offence. To them, they are the best in the region. They want to win in style and Rajevacs’ way just wasn’t “cool” enough.
The Thai FA knew full well what was going on, and decided to call in Choketawee Promrut as an extra member of the backroom staff. The ex-under 23 head coach is a popular figure with the players, having won the SEA Games gold with many of the current squad, and was supposed to improve the atmosphere within the team.
Clearly, that didn’t happen.
It was rumoured that a meeting was held on the night of the defeat. Thai FA president Somyot Poompanmoung and his entourage were present. Rajevac and his team of staff were there, along with five unnamed players. Rajevac was sacked hours later.
Nobody knew what the 5 unnamed players’ input was in that meeting. Did they support Rajevac? Or were they calling for a change? I don’t think we’ll ever know but this says a lot about player-power. Why do they have a say in this? How can we, the fans, trust them to give us their best when they themselves still doubt the coach’s decision.
Now that Rajevac is gone, the players have no more places to hide. If what we’ve been seeing and hearing lately is true, then the players got it their way. Now is the time for them to step up. No more moaning about tactics. Forget about the result, this is the time for them to prove themselves. Show us, the fans, that they have the heart to wear the shirt.