War Elephants prove they’ve got backbone

By
Updated: March 25, 2016
Mongkol Tossakrai Iraq Thailand

It wouldn’t quite be Thailand if there wasn’t a touch of calamity to end proceedings.

Leading 2-1 and with tired bodies wilting all over the horrendous excuse for a football pitch, the inevitable Iraq equalizer came with the last kick of the game.

But that shouldn’t detract from a historic result last night, the 2-2 draw in the less than salubrious surroundings of the PAS Stadium Tehran ensuring the War Elephants are now in the final stage of World Cup qualifying for only the second time (the previous occasion was in 2002). They will now be in with the big boys of Asia.

The Thai fans were rightly jubilant at the final whistle, their players showing real backbone away from home (though let’s not forget, the poor Iraqis were not at home either) in a tie where it at first seemed they would suffer a trouncing.

Within the opening seconds of the game the Iraqis had a penalty shout after Theerathon lost his man, and minutes later they had a goal disallowed. The men in blue were at sea. The opposition looked bigger, stronger and sharper, even if their tactics were less than subtle. Long balls bypassing midfield seemed to send the Thai defenders into panic, and they were already sat worryingly deep. The one calm, stable presence was Kawin in goal, commanding his area where all about him seemed to be losing their heads.

But then after about 20 minutes, the game gradually changed. From somewhere, Thailand got a foothold. They found their passes, got their heads up. Little “Messi J” Chanathip got hold of the ball and started playing like the player he threatens to be, rather than the lightweight he often seems. Teerasip was tireless up front, as was Mongkol on the right hand side, and Kroekrit on the left. And they scored, Mongkol slipping in at the near post to nod in the (inevitable) Theerathon assist. It really was quite impressive. The doubters started to slip away.

Still, a voice nagged away, it couldn’t last. But it did, well into the second half, despite the Thais beginning to sit back dangerously. Kawin pulled off some fine saves. But unfortunately, he was at fault for the inevitable Iraqi goal, Kamil nipping in after the big keeper parried.

In years gone by, that might have been that. But the Thais refused to be cowed, came again, and on 86 minutes sub Kraisorn guided home coolly from yet another Theerathon set-piece. The small pocket of Thai fans in the stadium were sent into delirium, unfurling their giant Thai flag. Thailand, surely, couldn’t blow it from here, and despite that last gasp equalizer from Adnan, they didn’t.

But still, even though the Thais showed they are made of sterner stuff than many of their predecessors, they still have much to prove. Iraq, at times, seemed to brush them off too easily. Physically, they look like they can be bullied. They rely on Theerathon’s lovely dead-ball deliveries, akin to England during the Beckham era. And in the final third, the final ball is frustratingly all too often just plain poor. Teerasip, sometimes an isolated figure, was fed on scraps, despite the tireless work of the two wide men who were asked to attack and defend in the 4-3-3, or at times, 4-5-1 formation that they played.

But the fact is, Thailand are there, in the hat, with a chance, and there are clear positives to build on, players growing into the international arena. It was a genuine test last night, and one they just about passed. That is reason for celebration, as in the past the Southeast Asian bullies have often been the wider continent’s whipping boys. Let Thais enjoy the moment. Future prospects can wait for another day.

Iraq            2-2            Thailand

Kamil 66                        Mongkol 39

Adnan 90+5                   Kraisorn 86

Image ESPN: Mongkol celebrating his goal

 

2 Comments

  1. Phil

    March 25, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    Thailand played well in what was a very low-key, uninspiring atmosphere. However, I’ve been watching the national team for 25 years and they’ve always had the same problem – they seem to run out of ideas in the final third. They lack someone to really put his laces through the ball and make that net bulge. You always wonder where the goals will come from against decent opposition.

    They will need to seriously up their game in the next stage or they’ll be rubbing rags to the likes of Japan and Korea. But as you say – let Thailand enjoy the moment for now.

    • Editor - Thai Goals

      March 26, 2016 at 3:22 am

      Yes they await a serious upgrade in class. But they’ve made decent progress under Zico. They have South Korea in a friendly on Sunday; will be interesting to see how they get on.

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Thailand National Team, Thai Grounds, Thai Division One, Thai Regional League, Thai FA Cup, Thai League Cup

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Thai Regional League, Thai FA Cup, Thai League Cup, AFC Champions League, AFC
Thai Goals, Thailand National Team, Thai Grounds, Thai Division One, Thai Regional League, Thai FA Cup, Thai League Cup< ThaiGoals, Thailand Soccer, Thai Football, Premier League of Thailand, Thai Fixtures ThaiGoals, Thailand Soccer, Thai Football, Premier League of Thailand, Thai Fixtures
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