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2018 King’s Cup Roundup

 

Thailand’s King’s Cup Campaign ended in disappointment with a final defeat against a strong, experienced Slovakia side. After playing out a pretty poor 0-0 draw with Gabon, Kawin helped Thailand triumph in the semi-final shoot-out, before – despite a spirited display – they were relatively comfortably dispatched 3-2 by Martin Skrtel and co.

In keeping with my usual national team coverage on The Sandpit, I’ll be looking at each of Thailand’s players and giving my thoughts on their performances. Hey, there are even some Port players to talk about this year!

 

Kawin Thamsatchanan (1, goalkeeper)

Not only is he a great shot-stopper and very comfortable under the high ball, Kawin is a penalty specialist. His last few shoot-out performances have all resulted in victories for Thailand, with captain Kawin starring each and every time. The semi-final was no exception. In the final there wasn’t a great deal Kawin could have done with the 3 goals, particularly the third which was an absolute peach of a finish.

 

 

Philip Roller (13, right back)

One of Thailand’s weakest link in this tournament. Rajevac likes his full-backs to stay back, and you could tell that Roller was constantly fighting the urge to bomb forward down the right. This made him pretty ineffectual in the semi-final, when miserable Mongkol struggled to get any joy down the flank in front of him. Then in the final, when up against a winger much bigger and stronger than him, Roller really had a torrid time. Slovakia’s first goal pretty much summed it up, with Roller being comprehensively out-muscled as Slovakia’s winger broke in to the box and pulled the ball back for a simple goal. His one redeeming moment was his well-taken penalty in the semi-final.

 

Pansa Hemviboon (6, centre back)

This guy just keeps getting better. Not only is he the best Thai centre back by a country mile, on his form over the last season and a bit I would have him over most of the foreign defenders, too. Aside from his fine defending, the Buriram man almost broke the Gabon keeper’s wrists with a powerful strike in the semi final, netted the winning penalty with aplomb and scored from a set-piece in the final.

My player of the tournament for Thailand, narrowly beating out Kawin and Thitipan.

 

 

 

Chalermpong Kerdkaew (4, centre back)

I thought the Korat centre half was good in the semi-final, and didn’t do much wrong in the final either. He doesn’t do anything spectacular, he’s not great on the ball but he doesn’t make mistakes either, and that’s why Rajevac likes him.

 

Peerapat Notechaiya (2, left back)

With Tanaboon still out injured, Peerapat must take his place as the most overrated Thai player in the national team. Whoever allowed him to take another penalty this year needs a good slap. In last year’s King’s Cup, he smashed his effort a mile over the bar, and this year he passed it straight down the middle. Similar to Siwakorn in the Leo Cup for Port, everyone knew he was going to miss, except apparently him. Kevin can feel pretty aggrieved not to have played at all over the 2 games.

 

Thitipan Puangchan (8, centre midfield)

My player of the tournament in last year’s King’s Cup, and once again one of the best players on the park across both games. As well as his driving runs forward he must have made as many tackles as the rest of his teammates combined in the semi-final. In the final he had a compelling running battle with Slovakia’s bigger, stronger number 8, but such was his determination that he by no means came off second best. I’ll keep saying it: he is one of very few players in Thailand’s team with the guts to stand up and be counted when heads start to drop around him. He always puts in the work, he always wants the ball and he will put his body on the line like no one else.

 

 

Jakkaphan Kaewprom (7, centre midfield)

Largely anonymous across the two games, until he popped up with a tap-in in the final. His performances throughout the last season at Buriram have rightly earned him this opportunity, but I didn’t see anything to convince me that he will contribute much at international level.

 

Mongkol Tossakrai (11, right wing)

Probably Thailand’s worst performer, although Teerasil ran him close. As ever, Mongkol played with no creativity, and was unusually poor when he got himself in to the threatening positions that he has scored a decent number of international goals from. Rajevac gave him barely an hour in the first game, before rightly hooking him at half time in the final.

 

 

Theeraton Bunmathan (3, left wing)

Well, he didn’t really play on the left wing. Theeraton was all over the place throughout both games, and once again I just don’t think he contributes as much when he has the freedom to go wherever he wants. Drop Peerapat, stick Theeraton at left back, let him get forward as much as possible so he can deliver those wonderful left-footed crosses to Teerasil. How many goals has this formula provided over the years? I rest my case. Theeraton was also typically reliable form the spot, with his stutter-step technique continuing to prove successful.

 

Chanathip Songkrasin (18, attacking midfield)

What a superbly talented player. His first half performance in the final was absolutely vintage Messi-Jay, and the way he was doubled-up on and fouled in the second half showed just how scared of him Slovakia were. With Thailand chasing an equaliser late on he nearly had the shirt ripped off his back, much to the chagrin of the home support. Still needs to add more goals in order to really take his game to the next level, though.

 

 

Teerasil Dangda (10, striker)

What a let-down. The striker who has done well since arriving in Japan this season certainly didn’t show much of that promise over the two games. His touch was heavy, he wasn’t strong enough and was just frustrating for a player who has the ability to do so much better. Thankfully he did manage to keep his head when the goalkeeper passed the ball to him in the area, playing an intelligent pass to Jakkaphan who converted the chance easily. Also made no mistake from the spot, although if the ‘keeper had gone the right way he would almost certainly have saved it.

 


 

Bodin Phala (15, left wing)

Played about an hour in total, and looked pretty darn good. He was outshone by Nurul in the semi final, but still had quite a few threatening moments in both games. Bodin’s season so far has consisted of 8 substitute appearances in 8 games. If only he could get a start for Port every now and then!

 

Nurul Sriyankem (14, right wing)

Also used twice from the bench, where he was threatening and dynamic at times in both games. Was unlucky not to score with a chip in the semi-final, but came through with an assist for Thailand’s second goal in the final. If I’m honest it looked like an awfully miss-hit cross that made it’s way through to Pansa at the far post, but we’ll take it!

 

 

Siroch Chatthong (22)

Typical Pipo, really. Used his physique to create a promising break in the final, then booted the ball way too far in front of him, allowing the ‘keeper to gather comfortably. The promising Pipo of a couple of seasons ago is becoming a more and more distant memory, I’m afraid.

 


 

All photos by Umim Supatchana

 

Ratt-sody in Blue

 

Kawin, Sinthaweechai, Chanin and Rattanai

 

Sport MThai have reported that Thai National Team Coach Zico’s appearance at PAT Stadium on Saturday was not just to get a closer look at new Port signing Elias Dolah, but also our exciting young goalkeeper Rattanai Songsangchan.

As The Sandpit wrote about in early January, Dolah has been on Zico’s radar ever since he made the switch to Khlong Toei. His height makes him a potentially great asset to the diminutive Thai National Team, and the change to playing 3 centre backs would seem to create space in the squad for the big Thai-Swede.

Rattanai, however, has not been tipped to make the step up to full international level until now. Indeed, until Port’s starting XI to face Ratchaburi was announced on Saturday, many thought that Rattanai wouldn’t even be Port’s first choice ‘keeper this season. They should have known better! The 21 year old stopper was given his debut last July in the 2-1 League Cup victory against BEC Tero, and impressed so much in the Cup competitions that by September he was already being selected for crunch games against Muangthong Utd in the League Cup semi-final and promotion rivals Ubon UMT in the league.

It’s his lightning reactions that are the most obvious sign that he is a seriously talented ‘keeper, but Rattanai has also looked comfortable collecting crosses; often preferring to catch the ball rather than punch, which is unusual and refreshing in the modern game.

Arguably, the only weakness in Rattanai’s game last season was his distribution. He looked nervous with the ball at his feet, and often seemed to avoid kicking it long wherever possible. In the off-season, though, he trained with the National Team Under 23’s and appears to have worked particularly hard on that aspect of his game. Against Ratchaburi on Saturday, Rattanai picked out a few nice long passes with his left foot, and kept Port on level terms early in the second half with a crucial point blank save from Alharbi El Jadeyaoui. There was one slightly worrying moment when he waited for what seemed an age for the ball to roll in to the area before smothering the danger, but he had judged that he had enough time, and was proved right.

It’s not just Rattanai’s performances which have endeared him to the PAT faithful though, but his personality too. He is a down-to-earth youngster who can often be found eating Isaan food at a local Khlong Toei restaurant with his family and girlfriend after the game. Before his ascent to the first team, Rattanai would come and go with quiet anonymity, but after some of his heroic performances he was entering to the sound of applause, and having to deal with all sorts of star-struck lunatics and their photo requests!

 

 

On the pitch, too, Rattanai has increasingly found his voice and began to express himself more. He seems to be communicating well with his defenders, and isn’t afraid to tell them when he isn’t happy. As the photo below beautifully illustrates, he celebrated as passionately as the fans on the terraces when Port scored their injury-time equalizer on Saturday. That’s what we like to see!

 

 

So what are Rattanai’s chances of making the step up to international level? The 3 goalkeepers named by Zico in the last several squads have been Kawin Thamsatchanan, Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool and Chanin Sae-ear. 27 year old Kawin – not just the best goalkeeper in Thailand but quite possibly in Asia – is not going to be dislodged in the foreseeable future. His understudy Sinthaweechai, however, will be celebrating his 35th birthday when Thailand face Saudi Arabia on March 23rd. After making 83 appearances in the last 14 years for Thailand, the Suphanburi stopper’s international career can’t go on forever, and when it does come to an end Rattanai should surely be one of the names in the frame to replace him in the squad. With Kawin expected to continue as Thailand’s number 1 for many years to come, it makes sense for Zico to look to the future and pick players who could one day be Kawin’s successor.

Expect to see Chonburi’s 24 year old Chanin, 21 year old Rattanai, and a host of other young ‘keepers vying for places in the squad in the coming years. If he continues to develop the way he has done in his first year at Port, we’re backing Rattanai to earn his chance at international level. He may have to wait a while, but time is on his side.