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A rusty title defence

Thai women's national team Spencer Prior

The new boss: Spencer Prior
image: thai-fussball.com

If your rest, you rust. As the phrase goes.The Thai women's national team just recently disproved this wise saying and have won the AFF Championship back to back. Not enough, even with a new man on the touchline.

2015 was one of the most successful years in history for the women's side of the Thai Association. They have won the AFF Championship for the second time and have played the women's World Cup for the first with a historic win over Ivory Coast. The botched participation in the third round to Rio 2016, not much changed it. That was in September 2015 and it was followed by the resignation of coach Nuengruethai Sathongwien and team manager Madam Pang.

Both are now back on board. Although Sathongwien just as a staff coach. Her successor at the helm is Spencer Prior. An Englishman who most recently oversaw the Australia women's U-20.He is also the first foreign coach in charge of a Thai women's national team.

Officially unveiled in May 2016 he was trusted with the task to remove the rust and to make ladies fit for the AFF Championship. A particularly difficult task because the women's didn't have a single game or training for a period of eight months. And also repeatedly announced, there is still no sign of a domestic league. Since three years now.

In the run-up to the AFF Championship, Prior got the chance to test his team three times. Twice against China (0-6 and 0-3) and against Myanmar (0-1). All of them away. All in all no good signs for the most important tournament in the region, where Thailand would have to face the Philippines, Singapore, and archrival Vietnam in Group A. Although Prior could fall back on the core of the World Cup team and of recent years.

After two easy victories at the start (4-0 and 8-0), Thailand had to face Vietnam in the final froup stage game which the Thais lost 0-2 eventually. Finishing second it has been Prior's former team, the U20 of Australia, which was just waiting for Thailand in the semis. Somewhat surprisingly, Thailand won the game 2-1. In particular, it was pacey Kanjana Sungngoen who put her stamp on the game and was the source of unrest in the final third of Australia.

After Vietnam could beat Myanmar in the other semi-final after penalties, it was up to Thailand and Vietnam, to battle for the crown 2016 of Southeast Asia. The surprising fact, both have met for the first time in a final of the AFF Championship. The Thais went ahead after seven minutes through an own goal by Vietnam. For most of the time, Vietnam dominated the game and had the better chances. But it took Vietnam until five minutes before the whistle to score and equalise. Prior's tactic with Kanjana didn't pan out really this time. At the end, maybe both sides know each other just too well. Still 1-1 after 120 minutes, the penalty shootout had to bring a decision.

Thailand won the final after penalties, but in between, it was Vietnam who celebrated. Waraporn Boonsing could ward off the penalty by Nguyễn Thị Liễu, but then the ball scrambled slowly down the line. And it seemed even if not in full, the ball could have crossed the line before Boonsing could finally save him. So Thailand was the - quite - some lucky winner at the end. The Thais won the Southeast Asia Championship for the third time and as the first team ever, managed to defend the title.

As the back-to-back winner of the of the AFF Championship, Thailand will have the honour to take on the US women's national team on 15 September in Columbus, Ohio. As well as last year when Thailand faced Holland in a friendly and Germany at the World Cup, it is going to a premier for the two. The USA were looking for an opponent to play during the FIFA-matchdays in September, and so the got the idea to ask the Thai FA. World Cup appearances can cause miracles sometimes. A year ago before the World Cup, the USA might would have never get the idea to play an international friendly against the Thais.

And when Hope Solo or Carly Lloyd are going to ask their opponents how it is. To be without any domestic league, the Thais could reply: " Well, we rest and rust. But in the end, at least, we win the AFF Championship."
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