Thailand ready for Palestine

Thailand ready for Palestine

By Kitinan Sanguansak - AFF Thai correspondent

Thailand’s German coach Winfried Schaefer needs to draw on his tactical nous if the veteran tactician is to get his national reign off to a winning start when his new charges take on an improving Palestine side in the 2014 World Cup Asian second qualifying round today.

Schaefer and Thai GK Kawin Thamsatchanan meet their Palestine counterparts

On paper, a home leg against the side languishing in the 167th place in the world’s ranking hardly represented a tough first assignment for a coach of Schaefer’s stature. The German, whose most notable success in his managing career was the triumph with Cameroon at the African Nations Cup in 2002, might have been forgiven if he had adopted a cautious approach for the Palestine fixture.

By now, Schaefer should have realised that he inherited a poisoned chalice when he took over the reins earlier this month following the resignation of former Manchester United captain Bryan Robson. His rebuilding job was never easy with the Thais’ confidence battered by a wretched run of results under the much maligned Englishman.

Barely having time to acquaint himself with new charges, the 61-year-old German was thrown into the thick of action straight away. The fact that Thailand had not played a match of any kind since the turn of the year until the double header friendly against Burma last week did not help Schaefer’s cause either.

Should Schaefer, who built his reputation from the stint at Karlsruher club in his native country, need a reminder of the threat Palestine could pose to his side, he had no need to look far back beyond the embarrassment in the Olympic qualifiers earlier this year.

Thailand actually won the two-leg tie against Palestine on penalties but they later were disqualified for fielding ineligible player in the home fixture. Nevertheless, the Middle East country already proved that they were more than a match to the Thais over two legs, which eventually required penalty shootout to decide the winners after the tie ended 1-1.

With several players from the Olympic roster expected to be among Palestine’s travelling party, what once was regarded as a favourable draw suddenly became a tricky tie for Schaefer’s men, particularly the decisive leg was due to take place in Middle East.

Apart from the time that presented a major constraint, the experienced trainer still has to deal with problems almost on daily basis while preparing his team for the fixture at Buriram PEA’s new home ground, I-Mobile stadium.

The Thai team’ preparations suffered the unexpected snag when two staffs Schaefer took from Germany returned home without notice following the dispute over their salaries with the Football Association of Thailand.

Injury woes added to the German’s headaches. He already lost the services of his two forwards including in-form Sarayoot Chaikamdeem, the current leader on the scoring chart in Thailand Premier League, while the fitness of several players of his squad remained in doubt.

Schaefer’s strict management also faced the first test when Anucha Kitpongsri, who forced his way back into the reckoning following his fine display this season, left the training camp without permission. It remained unknown about the Chon Buri left back’s future with the team even though he already came out to apologise for his antics.

Working in normal circumstances is difficult already to produce dramatic changes overnight. Given such state of the Thai team’s preparations, it appeared unlikely that Schaefer’s men would begin the World Cup campaign with a bang in the German’s first competitive game in charge of the team.

Nevertheless, given the team’s potentials at Schaefer’s disposal, it should be enough to help the Thais overcome the first hurdle, albeit they might have to do in hard way.

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