Published on December 29, 2007
With only Iraq standing between them and the title, national coach Chanvit Pholchivin has urged his men to make the final big effort to keep the prestigious King's Cup trophy in the country for the second successive year when they meet the Asian Cup champions in the showdown match today.
The annual competition has served as a preparation for Chanvit's side before they embark on their World Cup qualifying campaign in February, where Thailand have been drawn with regional powerhouse Japan, Oman and Bahrain in Group B.
The fact that the home team played to different tactics and utilised their bench strength for the three matches of the round-robin stage clearly reflected Chanvit's intention to make the most of the opportunity.
Chanvit could not have foreseen how well such an approach would work after his team won all their matches in the first stage to finish atop the standings in the quadrangular tournament, which also included North Korea and Uzbekistan. There was an element of fortune in the Thai wins, though.
The defending champions were gifted a late own goal in a 2-1 first-stage victory over Iraq, who were the better side on the day. This setback was the only blot on the war-torn state's record, as Iraq secured the remaining qualifying spot by winning other two fixtures.
Chanvit are well aware that his men are in for a tough task against the Middle East team, who are without most of the members of the Asian Cup-winning outfit, to retain the title they won a record twelve times.
"It's no doubt that tomorrow would be a stern test for us. It'll definitely not be an easy match. Our lads need to summon all the experience they have," Chanvit said. "The Iraqis have good individual technique. We have to maintain our focus throughout the game as a single lapse could mean disaster.
"The match against one of the top teams in the region will help us know where we stand. Against such rivals we must make the most of our chances. The game could be settled in normal time and I believe we could win again," Chanvit said.
If the final ends in a draw after regular time, it will be decided by a penalty shootout.
The game will take place at Rajamangala National Stadium. Channel 7 will televise the match live from 6pm.