World Cup Qualifying Thailand

Thoughts on Nishino’s First Thailand Squad

Thailand prepares to face Vietnam and Indonesia in the first two matches of the 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup qualifiers, and new boss Akira Nishino has picked his first 33-man provisional squad. Today, our Thailand based writers Obb Deewajin and Gian Chansrichawla discuss their thoughts on the squad selection, and what it could mean for the team going forward.

A full list of the squad can be viewed here

Who was left out of the squad that you think should have been included? 

Obb: I would've liked to have seen PTT Rayong striker Apiwat Pengprakon be given a chance with the national team. I'm also fine with "Leesaw" Teeratep Winothai or 17-year-old Suphanat Mueanta but feel Apiwat is the better choice due to his incredible work-rate and the fact that he gets to start up front regularly, unlike Leesaw who is mostly fielded wide with Chonburi FC. As for Suphanat, he is a true talent. However, we all saw how upset he was after the cup game versus Bangkok United where he missed a handful of chances. Ability wise, Suphanat can play. I just don't want to put too much pressure on him and risk ruin what potential he has. 

Gian: The biggest omission for me is Elias Dolah, who has been crucial for Port all season and has been among the best defenders in the league. He possesses a skill set that few others have, and his weaknesses are compensated for by the other players in the lineup. It’s understandable if he’s not in the starting lineup, but the fact that he didn’t even make the 33-man list is a real shame. In addition, with some of the top U23 talent being trialed with the first team, I’m surprised Wisarut Imura didn’t get the nod after the progress he’s made this year with Bangkok United. 

How would the defense look under Nishino, given his picks? 

Obb: I could see Akira Nishino adopting a back-four system with the center-backs playing a key role in circulating the ball around. Except for Pansa Hemviboon, all the other center-backs have previously proved they are able, or at least willing, to distribute possession either with club or country. Theerathon Bunmathan will surely start at left-back. But there is competition for the right side. Based on form, I'd start Narubadin Weerawatnodom over the injured (?) Tristan Do or Nitipong Selanon.

Gian: Most teams in the Thai League play with a back three, so it would probably make sense to adopt the same thing at international level. It’s good to see Manuel Bihr back in the fold due to his ball-playing ability. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him be the centerpiece of the defense flanked by Adisorn Promrak and Pansa Hemviboon. However, given only 5 (or 7 counting Tanaboon and Patcharapol) center-backs were selected in the final 33, which doesn’t look like a large enough pool to play a back three from, so depth is a worry there. 

Is the midfield balanced enough?

Obb: This is a well-balanced midfield. In terms of playing traits, I think it got all the right mix of box-to-box midfielders, deep creators, passing midfielders, wide attackers or pure wingers for 1-v-1 situations. They are all here. But my only concern is the defensive midfield department. Can Tanaboon Kesarat, who has been playing in defense for Port FC, do the job? The other pure destroyer types are youngsters Rattanakorn Maikami and Patcharapol Intanee, but will they start for the senior team? 

Gian: A back three could (possibly) mitigate the need for a designated defensive midfield ‘destroyer,’ so I hope that Nishino goes with that option. As a statement of confidence, I think Nishino should opt for a more offensive midfield, with Thitipan Puangchan and Peeradol Chamratsamee in front of a back three. The former’s energy and fight alongside the latter’s finesse would present a lethal mix of skills going forward, but both would need to work to cover the defensive side of the game to make such a plan work. 

What do we do with the lack of strikers? 

Obb: To be honest, I'm not really concerned about our lack of strikers (although, as I've mentioned above, it would be nice to give someone like Apiwat a chance) since it looks like Nishino is building a more fluid attack which utilizes goal-scoring midfielders - something two of our best players, Chanathip Songkrasin and Thitipan Puangchan, are known for. 

I am against playing Supachai Jaided (aka "The Thai Thomas Müller") as our main-man. He is at his best when ‘moving into’ the goal-scoring areas, not starting in them. As for Chananan Pombuppha, he is a fine striker with decent linkup plays. I could see Nishino spearheading the team with Chananan; opening spaces for Thitipan's late runs into the box or playing one-twos with Chanathip.

Gian: I wasn’t convinced at first, but I am starting to come around to the idea that Suphanat Mueanta is quite possibly the best striking option available. His pace, positioning, and ability to finish with one touch make him possibly the most lethal option up top. However, will he have the mental fortitude to give his best despite isolated up front for long periods of the game? We saw Supachai struggle to do that during the King’s Cup, and no matter how talented Suphanat is, he is only 17. Given the squad we’ve selected, I’d like to see Chananan get a chance. 

What do you make of the high number of young players who were selected?

Obb: Time is a valued commodity in international football. And with Nishino also taking charge of the U23s, which is set to compete in the SEA Games this November, I believe it's great that he gets to have a look at the talent pool first hand. Not only that but the players themselves also get the chance to know Nishino's system better. Thus acting as a U23 separation, in and of itself, as well as the bridge from youth level to the senior team. 

Gian: Every one of the young players Nishino selected has earned the right to train with the big boys thanks to their performance in the Thai League. Nishino genuine depth for selection with the U23’s this year and will be spoiled for choice. It’s nice to see both of Samut Prakan City’s wingbacks get the recognition they deserve for making their system work so well, and Muangthong’s defensive duo Saringkan Promsupa and Patcharapol Intanee who have progressed leaps and bounds since being made regular members of the first team. Putting Nishino in charge of both the senior and U23 teams is meant to encourage cohesion in this way, and I’m glad to see it working out.