Thailand retained the King’s Cup on Sunday night, prevailing 5-4 in a tense penalty shootout in which crowd favourite Siroch smashed in the winning spot-kick. The score was 0-0 in normal time, with both sides defending well and tackling hard throughout. Thailand showed that they were able to hold their own against tough, physical opposition marking an improvement from recent years, when they have frequently been dominated by rougher sides.
Belarus were first to blink in the shootout, with their second attempt being easily saved by Kawin, but Peerapat squandered Thailand’s advantage when he blasted his effort over the bar. Both sides then held their nerve until sudden-death, when Kawin pulled off a superb stop from Artsyom Skitaw, leaving the nervy task of converting the final penalty to Siroch. Without a goal to his name in 2017 Siroch can’t have been high on confidence, but with the whole stadium chanting his name he launched an absolute rocket of a penalty in to the back of the net, before whipping off his shirt and sprinting half way around the stadium.
Kawin (1, goalkeeper)
Kawin was solid as always in goal, and when it came to penalties Thailand must have felt like they had the advantage with him between the sticks. Kawin went the right way four out of six times, and his second stop was an outstanding piece of goalkeeping. On an occasion set up perfectly for the new captain, he led by example and put in a heroic, match-winning performance.
Adisorn (5, right back)
Adisorn was very solid at the back again, but it’s in that situation where the ball comes to him in a crossing position that you miss Tristan Do. The Muangthong centre back seems to suit Rajevac’s solid defensive system, though, as he keeps possession and is very rarely caught out of position.
Pansa (13, centre back)
Pansa was superb again today, with more attacking threat offered up by Belarus than North Korea. The 6 foot 3 Buriram man dealt well with the high balls in to the area, and made a couple of good blocks in a second half scramble in which Belarus looked sure to score.
Chalermpong (4, centre back)
Chalermpong had another good game, cementing his place in a team that has taken him until the age of 30 to break in to. Chalermpong’s name is now a common choice on the back of Thailand shirts, with Nakhon Ratchasima fans delighted to have a representative in the national team. I saw one with “Pride of Korat” under Chalermpong’s name. Quite.
Peerapat (2, left back)
Peerapat was much improved in normal time, linking up well with Theerathon and converting defence in to attack quickly on numerous occasions. I winced when I saw him step up to take the second spot-kick, though, having seen enough of his wild shooting to make me very nervous at the prospect of him taking a penalty. His effort never looked close, flying over the bar and wasting the advantage Thailand had just earned through Kawin’s save. His teammates saved his blushes, thankfully!
Tanaboon (17, centre midfield)
It was another average performance from Tanaboon, who once again saw his midfield partner out-work him in defence and attack. His positional sense is good though, and with Thitipan running around like a maniac for 90 minutes, his calming influence does have some value. Nevertheless, I would pick Sarach over Tanaboon as Thitipan’s partner when he’s back to full fitness.
Thitipan (8, centre midfield)
Thitipan was everywhere again, hunting down opposition players all over the pitch and more often than not leaving their face in the dirt. It’s not always pretty, but it’s damn sure effective. The opposition weren’t as accommodating as the North Koreans, though, and Thitipan was on the receiving end of some quite nasty tackles in the second half that he almost certainly deserved. In the dying minutes, Thitipan and Siroch were the only players really driving Thailand forward to try and get the win, and that was after 90 minutes of lung-busting work from the Chiang Rai midfielder.
His penalty was well struck, but the ‘keeper guessed right and very nearly kept it out. His face after it squirmed in to the side-netting said it all! He’s won me over in his last 3 games for Thailand, and I’m sure I’m not alone. The conversation should not be about whether he keeps his place, but who is best to partner him in midfield. My Player of the Tournament by some distance.
Mongkol (11, right wing)
Anonymous. He made his usual runs in to the box to help out Adisak, but when he doesn’t pop up with a goal, he doesn’t offer a great deal to the team, to be honest.
Theerathon (3, left wing)
Theerathon was the official Man of the Match, playing with more positional discipline than on Friday, but still drifting inside occasionally to add numbers when Thailand attacked through the middle. He showed off his superb touch on several occasions, and his delivery was top-notch as always. Adisak should have done better with one chance that Theerathon provided him with. His penalty was absolutely unstoppable too, despite that pause in the run-up which always makes me nervous. You don’t need to send the ‘keeper the wrong way if you’re going to smash it in to the top corner, Um!
Sanrawat (10, attacking midfield)
Much, much better than Friday. Sanrawat played deeper than he did in the semi-final, dropping back in to midfield where he is more comfortable to help build attacks. He was one of the best performers in the first 45 minutes, but faded a little in the second half. His change in position made for a better performance for him personally, but it didn’t do Adisak any favours, who was even more isolated than he was against North Korea. Thankfully the man who missed a penalty in last year’s King’s Cup was saved a serious test as he was substituted before the shootout.
Adisak (9, striker)
This has to go down as another missed opportunity for Adisak. Service was again limited, but you get the feeling Teerasil would have buried the chance Adisak fluffed when Theerathon crossed so invitingly from the left. His movement wasn’t great, he didn’t hold the ball up particularly well and he didn’t score. Teerasil can’t come back soon enough!
Again, Pipo showed why he was a better option than Adisak when he came on. He won a freekick on the edge of the area which Thitipan went close with, and was generally a nuisance with his strength and movement. Pipo didn’t have any clear-cut chances in normal time, but took his chance to be the penalty hero with both hands, rifling in an unstoppable penalty in to the left hand side netting. Pick that out!
Leesaw came on to huge cheers, but didn’t give the crowd anything else to celebrate in normal time. He gave the ball away a few times, and didn’t look quite on his game. He stepped up to take the first penalty, though, and found the bottom left hand corner with power and accuracy. Textbook.
Philip Roller (12)
Roller was surprisingly brought on as a right winger, replacing Mongkol. It was clear that Rajevac didn’t want to risk changing any of his defenders, and thought that Roller’s fresh legs would b more of a threat than Mongkol. He was right, but Roller didn’t have enough time to really get in to the game, until the shootout. Roller took one of those penalties where you have to send the ‘keeper the wrong way, or it will almost certainly be saved. Thankfully he did, and it wasn’t!
Featured Image by Changseuk