AFC U23 Championships

Thailand Face Iraq in Crunch Match

Gian Chansrichawla

Football Tribe SEA Editor


After a disappointing 2-1 loss to Australia in their last match, Thailand’s hopes of qualifying for the knockout stage at their own AFC U23 Championships now rests on their final game against Iraq.

The hosts remain in second after their 5-0 demolition of Bahrain on Matchday 1, with qualification still in their hands. In fact, a draw will be enough to see the War Elephants through, provided that Australia beat Bahrain

Coach Akira Nishino has a number of issues to solve going into the final game. Most notably, the fitness of both Supachai Jaided and Suphanat Mueanta, who have been crucial for the War Elephants so far this tournament, could be in doubt. Thailand don’t have another reliable option up front in Supachai’s absence, with his substitute on Saturday Nantawat Suankaew struggling to make an impact.

Additionally, a new solution may be needed at right-back after a poor performance by Suphanburi defender Meechok Mahasaranukun against Australia. However, the side are lacking solid defense options in that position and may need to reshuffle the back-line to provide enough security for this match.

Ultimately, Thai fans will be hoping that Nishino has a Plan B up his sleeves to rectify these problems and confound his opponents ahead of what is a critical game for the nation’s Olympics bid.