Thailand got their 2017 King’s Cup campaign off to the best possible start, cruising past a weakened North Korea side 3-0. A timely first half goal from Mongkol (11) opened the scoring, before Man of the Match Thitipan (8) made the win safe. The crowd went wild as Teeratep (14) marked his comeback to international football by adding one more from the spot in injury time.
Rather than write one of the usual play-by-play match reports, I thought it might be more interesting to go player-by-player, serving the dual purpose of reviewing the match and introducing you lot to some of the national team players you might not be familiar with.
Kawin Thamsatchanan (1, goalkeeper)
Kawin is new boss Rajevac’s Captain, and he underlined his importance to the team with a typically authoritative performance, as well as a couple of crucial saves from long distance efforts. One late kick went dangerously astray, but Thailand were not punished. At just 27, Thailand should have many years ahead of them with the comfort of knowing Kawin is between the sticks.
Adisorn Promrak (5, right back)
23 year old Muangthong defender Adisorn’s inclusion was a head-scratcher for me. He is a very different kind of player from Tristan Do, who is missing the King’s Cup through injury. Whereas Do gets forward whenever possible to join the attack, Adisorn is essentially a centre back playing out of position, and he looks it whenever he gets the ball. With the exception of one foray forward on the break which nearly resulted in a goal, Adisorn defended competently, but didn’t do a lot else.
Pansa Henviboon (13, centre back)
Why has this guy not been in the team for years? Well, because he was playing bog-standard football with Chamchuri United, TOT and Khon Khaen, before being plucked from obscurity by Buriram this year. The tall, powerful centre back has since played himself in to the first team, and now the national team. I’ve only seen him in two games so far, but am very impressed. I’d pick him over every other Thai defender on current form. Pansa was solid throughout, and made a goal-saving challenge which he had to get absolutely right to avoid giving away a penalty.
Chalermpong Kerdkaew (4, centre back)
This defender from Nakhon Ratchasima is the other half of Rajevac’s newly promoted centre back pairing. At 30 years old, he is a late-comer to the national set-up, and hasn’t had the most distinguished career you’ve ever seen for an international footballer. Nevertheless, he looks solid and mistake-free. Again, I’ve only seen him a couple of times, and he has been outshone on his partner on both occasions, but he hasn’t put a foot wrong, so no complaints.
Peerapat Notchaiya (2, left back)
24 year old Peerapat is Theeraton’s erstwhile understudy at Muangthong and at international level. He probably is Thailand’s second best left-back, but to be honest that’s more of an indictment of the dearth of left-backs than praise of his abilities. The sooner Kevin Deeromran or Suriya Singmui kicks on and makes the place their own the better. To be fair to him, Peerapat got forward well and crossed smartly for Thitipan’s goal, but unfortunately that kind of end product is the exception rather than the rule.
Tanaboon Kesarat (17, centre midfield)
The most overrated player in Thai football showed once again that he is average at best in central midfield. He provided less in the way of cover and less going foward than his midfield partner, and was largely a passenger throughout the game, carried by the hard work of others and the profligacy of the opposition. Tanaboon needs to learn that being calm, composed and keeping possession is not enough in the international arena. The most inappropriately nicknamed player I’ve ever seen, the Thai Busquets wouldn’t recognize the dark arts if they put on an exhibition in his living room.
Thitipan Puangchan (8, centre midfield)
After Thailand’s 1-1 draw with UAE, AC was unfortunate enough to listen to me ramble on for the rest of the evening about what an awesome midfield display Thitipan had put on. He was even better yesterday. Deserved Man of the Match, he put on the least Thai midfield display of all time, niggling, harassing and kicking every player on the pitch at least twice. He even found time to score a goal and win a penalty. Underappreciated and underused during his 5 years at Muangthong, Thitipan has had a new lease of life at Chiang Rai, and at just 23 is still improving. He worked his socks off yesterday, and should have been personally thanked by every player on his team for making their jobs’ easier.
Mongkol Tossakrai (11, right wing)
This was a typical Mongkol performance if ever there was one. Provided nothing creative of note, but popped up in the box to get on the end of a Theeraton cross, turned well and buried his chance with aplomb. A reliable presence, and a scorer of important goals.
Theeraton Bunmathan (3, left wing)
New manager Rajevac seems to be using this tournament to experiment with playing Theeraton (known to his friends at Port as Heea Um) in a more advanced role. Usually a left wing back, yesterday Theeraton was nominally a left winger, but roamed all over the pitch in search of the ball. It kind of worked, and kind of didn’t. For me, so good is Theeraton’s left foot that it seems mad for him to be anywhere but on the left hand side whipping in crosses. I found myself frustrated when the ball made it’s way out there only to see Mongkol or Sanrawat cut in to no effect. I’m generally not a fan of this wing-switching nonsense when it’s used with one-footed players whose main purpose is crossing from their wing, like Pakorn or Theeraton. Still, in the absence of Chanathip, who will be the focal point of the attack when he returns, this was a worthwhile experiment from the new manager. Theeraton did get an assist, unsurprisingly a cross from the left hand side.
Sanrawat Dechmitr (10, forward)
How such a talented player who plays so well for his club can be so utterly useless at international level I have no idea. After picking Port to pieces when Bangkok United came to PAT Stadium, Sanrawat barely looked like a professional footballer yesterday. He miscontrolled the ball, misplaced passes and was generally a waste of space, and not for the first time in a Thailand shirt. Maybe he just doesn’t have the bottle for playing in front of a real crowd.
Adisak Kraisorn (9, striker)
This was a big opportunity for Adisak, who plays second fiddle to Teerasil for club and country, and he probably didn’t make the most of it. To his credit he worked hard, and the fact that he didn’t look like scoring is more down to the lack of service he received than anything he did wrong. Personally, I would think if you want to play a lot of hopeful balls down the channels, it would make more sense to go with Siroch than Adisak, but after Siroch’s last couple of performances and the season he’s had with Ubon, it’s understandable that Adisak got the nod.
Siroch Chatthong (22, striker)
Siroch had a real stinker in the first half of the season with Ubon, scoring no goals, before being signed by Muangthong. Even off form, Siroch is always a threat, though. His physical style is exactly what Thailand need, and when he replaced Adisak he certainly gave the opposition defenders something different to think about. I’d start with him regardless of his goalscoring form.
Philip Roller (12, right back)
The 23 year old Thai-German right-back didn’t get much time on the pitch, but his recent performances for Ratchaburi suggest we will be seeing much more of him in the future. He will have a hard time dislodging Do from the team when he returns to fitness, though.
Teeratep Winothai (14, striker)
Leesaw was also only on the pitch for a few minutes, but created the chance that led to the penalty, before dispatching it superbly in to the top corner. He has played over 50 games for Thailand, but fell out of favour in recent years. At Bangkok United, Mano Polking has really got the best out of Leesaw, and his new found maturity has revived a career that seemed to be on a downward slope. At 32, Leesaw could still make an important contribute to the national team, although he will almost certainly have to do that from the bench. His celebration is still annoying, though.
With the earlier kick-off between Burkina Faso and Belarus ending 0-0, penalties settled the tie, and they couldn’t have been more decisive. Belarus put their first three in the back of the net, while Burkina Faso missed completely with 2 comical attempts, before the ‘keeper saved the third. Belarus looked like a solid, physical outfit from the little I saw of them, and should provide more of a test than the inexperienced mistake-prone North Koreans. The third place playoff between North Korea and Burkina Faso will be at 16:30 on Sunday, with the final between Thailand and Belarus kicking off at 19:00.
All Images by Changsuek