Thailand emerged triumphant from the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta last night, after seeing off hosts Indonesia by a comprehensive 3-0 scoreline. Football Tribe Thailand’s Obb Deewajin reflects on the War Elephants’ impressive win:
War Elephants Ready to Adapt
Limited time on the training ground is one of the key reasons international team head coach tend to stick with one go-to formation. Get that right, be more well-drilled than your opposition, and the chance of victory is high. Thailand stuck with a 4-2-3-1 under Milovan Rajevac and a 3-4-2-1 with Sirisak Yodyardthai. But with Akira Nishino, the War Elephants has already switched between two formations in two games. Nishino filled the center of the pitch with the 4-4-2 diamond in a tight clash against Vietnam. Then opted for a more adventurous approach with a 4-2-3-1 system against an Indonesian side willing to sit deep.
Top-Class Tinkering by Nishino
Having Sarach Yooyen dictate play in front of the back-4 increase Thailand's ball circulation in the build-up phase and chances of finding a way through Indonesia's compact defense. However, Sarach doesn't cover much ground and therefore extremely vulnerable against counter-attacks. Hence why Nishino decided instruct fullbacks Tristan Do and Theerathon Bunmathan to stay deep and narrow, provide defensive cover for Sarach in case the home side breaks forward. One clear disadvantage of this strategy is the lack of supporting runs from the fullbacks, thus making it more difficult to stretch to the opponent open, which can create space and time for more central attacking players to work their magic. Nishino's decision to push right-back Tristan Do further up the pitch when in possession helped loosen Indonesia's defensive structure. It's not a coincidence Supachok Sarachat cracking opener came from the left, due to the number of times Thailand combine and break through on that side.
Manuel Happy to get Physical
Manuel Bihr and Pansa Hemviboon were heavily criticized for their shaky performance on matchday 1 but credit to the center-back duo for raising their standards to earn Thailand a crucial win and clean sheet over the Garuda. Vietnamese striker Nguyen Tien Linh caused the two defenders all sorts of trouble with his acceleration and runs behind. Luckily, Indonesia's Beto Gonçalves offered something more familiar. German-born Manuel Bihr was happy to get into a physical battle with the 38 years old target man.
Faith in Youth
Supachok Sarachat and Phitiwat Sukjitthammakul put in yet another strong performance for Nishino in their third and second starts for the senior team respectively. Still, what truly got the Thai supporters pumped was Nishino's brave decision to start 19-year-old Ekanit Panya on the right flank in place of the injured Thitipan Puangchan. This may seem like nothing but in hindsight, a big gamble by the Japanese tactician considering Thailand needed, and expect nothing less than, a win at the Gelora Bung Karno. It was also nice to see cameos by Sivakorn Tiatrakul and Sasalak Haiprakhon; rising stars who are performing well at club level.
Chanathip Shadowed Out of Both Games
You don't need to be the most brilliant scout or analyst to single out Chanathip Songkrasin as Thailand's main creative force. Obviously, the Consadole Sapporo attacker will be marked and then closed-down by at least 1-2 opponents but the worrying sign is that it's working. There were instances of brilliance by Chanathip from the first two World Cup qualifiers but overall an average international break from the new number 10. Nishino must find a way to set Chanathip free for the side to advance to the next level.