By Lerpong Amsa-ngiam
The 49-year-old former assistant coach is suddenly in the hot seat after Milovan Rajevac was unceremoniously sacked following Sunday’s 4-1 defeat by India, their first loss to that country in 32 years.
Rajevac’s obsessively cautious approach has already proved to be a major factor in the gradual decline of the War Elephants, so Sirisak has been handed the task of devising a new game plan to keep Thai hopes alive in the United Arab Emirates.
“It’s like getting through a storm to help the team. I have to try every possible way to make the team better. Make them come up with better results,” said the former coach of League 2 outfit Thai Honda.
Thailand arrived the UAE with a realistic target of reaching the round of 16 but the surprise defeat to India in Abu Dahbi has made them outsiders to progress, with two tougher assignments ahead, against Bahrain and the hosts, on January 10 and 14 respectively.
“We actually played so well in the first half of the game with India. But after we lost the second goal we lost out concentration,” said Sirisak, who is familiar with all the players having been working as Rajevac’s assistant coach since 2017.
“If we play more carefully, we will have two entertaining games. At least we shall see some improvement. There could still be a surprise.”
Sirisak said the Thai FA office had exerted no pressure on him about the results he achieves in the remaining group matches and reaching the knock out stage had not even mentioned; simply raising their performance level is the top priority he has to concern himself with.
“We’ve been far away from the word pressure. We have to play our best to make the fans happy at this point,” Sirisak added.
Four points from the two remaining games may still lift Thailand to a runners-up finish in the group, which would guarantee qualification for the round of 16, or more likely could hand them a spot courtesy of them being one of the four best third-placed finishers.
If they can come up with a suitable game plan, starting with the Bahrain game tomorrow, Sirisak and his assistant coach Choketawee Promrut may yet extend Thailand’s interest in the top regional tournament.
Thailand, currently, world-ranked 118 by Fifa, could fancy their chances against Bahrain (112) but it will certainly be tougher against the UAER (79) on Monday.
“Both teams have better world rankings,” Sirikit acknowledged. “If we go for it too much, it will be exhausting. But we surely won’t be too defensive. We have to find a way in between.”