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Thailand BelaRuthless in King’s Cup Shoot-Out

 

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!

 

Substitutes

 

Siroch (22)

 

Photo by Cheerthai Power

 

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!

 

Teeratep (14)

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

 

Thailand Three; Kim Jong Nil

 

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)

 

Were going to need a bigger armband…

 

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)

 

Thitipan (8) is congratulated by his teammates

 

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)

 

Mongkol celebrates his goal

 

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.

 

Substitutes

 

Philip Roller and Siroch Chatthong

 

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)

 

Teeratep celebrates his goal

 

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.

 

Final Countdown

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

 

King’s Cup Kicks Off

 

With T1 bizarrely deciding to take a 3 week break to accommodate the King’s Cup, I thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at the tournament which starts its 45th edition this afternoon.

The King’s Cup is a four team tournament which features semi-finals, a final and a third-place playoff. It has been held nearly every year since 1968, and features Thailand, plus three other invited teams. It’s not uncommon for teams to decline the invitation though, so often there are some rather unconventional participants. Take the 1981 tournament for example, which saw Thailand battle it out with the North Korean Army, August 1 (a Chinese side also known as The People’s Liberation Army Bayi Football Club) and Polonia Warsaw from the Polish third tier.

This edition of the King’s Cup was tipped by organizers to be the grandest yet, with invitations reportedly sent to Uruguay, France and the Czech Republic. Their ambitions have not quite been realized, however, and the three teams who eventually accepted their invitations were Burkina Faso, Belarus and North Korea. With ELO rankings (much more accurate than FIFA) of 54, 67, and 79 respectively, this would still be a considerable step up for Thailand – ranked at 111 – but Burkina Faso and Belarus have sent B teams, whilst North Korea have included a whole host of youngsters in place of their best players. Not quite the field the organizers had in mind, it must be said.

What may at first glance appear to be a random group of countries scattered across the globe is in-fact a group with more in common than you might think. Their leaders rather like power. Kim Jong-un, Supreme Leader of North Korea is well known to the world for his limitless power and his supposed lack of an anus (no, seriously), but Alexander Lukashenko – the President of Belarus – is less infamous despite having been in power for almost 24 years, and saying that Hitler wasn’t really that bad. Not only does he have an asshole, he is an asshole. Burkina Faso is in comparison a positive Utopia. The head honcho is Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, who was elected President after a military coup in 2015. Then there are the hosts. No comment.

Reports that the 2018 King’s Cup is set to feature ISIS, The Imperial Storm troopers and Westboro Baptist Church are as yet unconfirmed. I would like to go on the record and say it’s very unlikely. They would never have organized it this far in advance.

The Cup will kick off this afternoon with Burkina Faso taking on Belarus at 16:30, and Thailand facing off with the North Koreans at 19:30. The finals and play-offs will be on Sunday. Thailand should fancy their chances against North Korea, who would be favourites at full strength, but with a host of youngsters are probably the underdogs. Despite missing superstars Teerasil and Chanathip, Thailand have a strong squad including exciting Thai-German debutant Phillip Roller and old favourite Teeratep Winothai, who has enjoyed a resurgence this season at Bangkok United.

I will be sure to keep you all up to date with proceedings, as it’s an international break and I’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Featured Image by AFP Getty Images