Thailand U23 head coach Akira Nishino is pleased with preparation ahead of the 2020 AFC U23 Championship and reaffirms the squad’s aspiration to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.
The former Japanese national team manager took charge of the Thai U23 at the Southeast Asian Games in the Philipines for his first competitive tournament but couldn’t take the War Elephants past the group stages – the first time in 8 years they failed to do so.
With Thailand hosting, expectations are high and pressure is slowly building from the disappointment in the Philipines but Nishino’s confidence is high following a productive training camp.
“As the host, there is a certain amount of pressure. Still, I felt we came out of a good training camp at the end of last year and as the home side, will give it our all.”
“All the teams in this competition, including the ones in our group, are all strong sides. So we have to ask ourselves, ‘How can we raise our game, to match the opposition?’ We’ve studied the opponents but to the key is to utilise [the information] depending on our situation.”
In 1996, Nishino famously led the Samurai Blue to summer Olympics for the first time in 28 years and surprised everyone with a group stage victory over the Brazilian side featuring the likes of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Roberto Carlos. If Thailand were to qualify from Group A, either as winners or runner-up, there are chances of facing Japan at the knockout stage. Still, the prospect of facing his compatriot is not Nishino’s concern.
“Our target is not to avoid Japan but to qualify for the Olympics. And we’ll take it game-by-game.”
Thailand is part of Group A which include Australia, Bahrain and Iraq. The Southeast Asian nation will kickoff their 3rd AFC U23 Championship against Bahrain on Wednesday the 8th of January at the Rajamangala Stadium, Bangkok.