Thailand’s Thitipan eyeing knockout stage
Bangkok: Thailand’s tough-tackling midfielder Thitipan Puangchan is hoping for a strong performance in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 20189 and believes that the War Elephants’ seeding could help them achieve a place in the knockout rounds.
Thailand’s last appearance at the continental competition was as co-hosts in 2007, while the only time the Southeast Asian nation have gone beyond the first round was back in 1972 when, again as hosts, they finished third in the six-team tournament.
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What are your hopes for the AFC Asian Cup draw?
We are lucky to have been placed in Pot 2 for the draw, so we should be able to avoid some of the strongest teams in the tournament. This obviously gives us a better chance of progressing to the Round of 16.
All the teams in the draw are strong but if we prepare well, we can compete against any team. If we could choose, we would prefer not to play against the likes of Japan and Korea Republic – the very top teams – in the group stage.
Would it be good for Thailand to face other Southeast Asian teams?
Being in Pot 2 gives us the possibility of meeting two other teams from Southeast Asia (Vietnam and the Philippines) and we have proved in the recent past that we can beat them.
It could be a good opportunity for us to get some points and we also have the opportunity to look at their form if we face them in the AFF Cup beforehand.
What is a realistic target for Thailand in the UAE?
We want to go as far as possible in the tournament. First, we have to get out of the group and into the Round of 16, which would be a good achievement. We could then see where that takes us.
How has Thailand’s style of play changed since Kiatisuk Senamuang was replaced by Milovan Rajevac as head coach last year?
I think the current Thai coach prefers to play in a more defensive style and it suits my game as I have more of a defensive role.
I think the defensive approach will be key to Thailand’s chances in the AFC Asian Cup.
Who do you think are the tournament favourites?
It has to be Japan for me. They look the strongest.
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