Strengths – Thailand made it into the knockout stage of the AFC Asian Cup for the first time in 47 years and will have nothing to lose in this stage of the competition. This is definitely one of the War Elephants’ biggest strength. Since the opening day capitulation against India and Milovan Rajevac’s sacking, Thailand have been performing fantastically. The players enjoy the tactical freedom under interim coach Sirisak Yodyadthai and will now enjoy the mental freedom know that they head into this fixture as an outsider.
Weakness – The SEA powerhouse will be missing two key center-backs, Adisorn Promrak and Suphan Thongsong, due to suspension. Although Pansa Hemviboon may return in the defense, Mika Chunuonsee’s fitness is still in doubt after sustaining a head injury in the previous match. This leaves Thailand with limited options. The defensive midfielder, Tanaboon Kesarat, will likely be moved into defense in order to complete the back-three. However, this is a position he had struggled in the past and will an ideal area for China to exploit with their direct play.
Player to Watch – Chanathip Songkrasin
If there is anyone who can create something out of nothing – it’s Chanathip. The attacking midfielder’s form had been on the rise since Rajevac’s dismissal. He scored the winning goal against Bahrain and played an important role in the equalizing goal against host UAE.
Strengths – China’s biggest strength is their experience and commitment in the style of play. Although not the most entertaining, Marcello Lippi has the side playing incredibly solid football. China will be tough to break down and, as Thailand had already experience in the previous friendly, extremely lethal in direct counter-attacking situations.
Weakness – China head into this game as the favorite and the pressure to perform will surely play a part in their mind. They might have got the better of Thailand in previous friendlies, but this is a new War Elephants side. Lippi must be prepared for unpredictability and help his players keep cool heads if they are to get the result they are after.
Player to Watch – Zheng Zhi
The Dragons’ captain put in a solid performance in the previous 2 matches. The 38-year-old is full of experience and will be the key to handling Thailand’s energetic midfield.