By The Nation
The national football team coach said the team would put up a strong fight for the late King Rama IX and the reigning King Maha Vajiralongkorn as they did against an unbeaten Australia in November. The 2-2 draw helped them claim their first point in the last-12 team round of the Asian qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
However, Teerasil Dangda’s brace either side of halftime barely improved Thailand’s prospects of reaching their first World Cup as they remain at the bottom of Group B standings after five games.
The stalemate came as a tonic for Thailand after a disastrous start to their second appearance in the continent’s decisive qualifying round, which saw them lose their opening four games. The former national striker is looking forward to seeing his men pick up from where they left off when they take on group leaders Saudi Arabia.
Thailand pushed the Saudis hard in Riyadh back in September before conceding a late goal to go down 1-0.
“I never thought the boys could perform so well in the first game [against Saudis]. I told them the Saudis were lucky to win that day. I don’t know whether they won because of the help from the referee or whatever. If we win tomorrow, it will not be a big upset or a lucky victory but the result of our hard work.
“We’ll not ask the referee for help. Many may consider the Saudis better than us. That’s their opinion. But my players are all eager to give their 100 per cent. The Saudis are not a weak side compared to the past but we’re stronger when we play at home.
“I told the lads that we need to compete against ourselves. Even though we are in the last spot we would show the fans and everyone that we’re no pushovers. Any team that wants to go through to the finals in Russia will have it tough against us. We’ll fight for boththe Kings, Rama IX and X. We’re not under any pressure,” said Kiatisak.
Saudi Arabia, who have 10 points from five matches, are leading the six-team group on goal difference ahead of Japan, with Asian champions Australia and UAE sitting only a point further back.
With such tightly-contested race for the top-two spots that guarantee automatic qualification for the 2018 finals in Russia, Saudi’s Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk said his side’s ability to handle the pressure will be the key in a bid to make a return to the showpiece event.
“I think this game is important, possibly the most crucial one. We’ve prepared everything, physically, tactically and mentally. We’ve done everything to be ready for this game. I think we’re ready now. “We analysed the Thais’ draw with Australia thoroughly. We know this game is not going to be easy. I know the fans have high expectations. But, if you’re unable to deal with the pressure then you won’t be able to reach the World Cup.
“I’ve spoken about this with my players. They all know how important this game is for us,” said the Dutchman who guided the Netherlands to the runners-up spot at the 2010 finals in South Africa.
Meanwhile, the Football Association of Thailand has prohibited fans from carrying certain items into the venue. Bags carried by supporters will be checked on entry to the stadium.
The association also imposed a ban on water bottles, whistles and laser pointers. The move came after the country was fined for turning a blind eye to some fans lighting flares during the second leg final of the Asean Championship against Indonesia in December.
Channel 7 and Foxsports HD will televise the game live from 7pm.