Asian Cup 2015: The way to Australia starts this Wednesday

Thai National Team
The first opponent of Thailand on the way to the Asian Cup in Australia 2015 is Kuwait. On Wednesday, both sides will meet in an official competitive match for the first time since more than a decade.

Beside Lebanon with German coach Theo Bucker at the helm, Iran as favorites to win the group, Kuwait and Thailand are battling for a ticket to the Asian Cup 2015 in Group B. In Thailand's opening game Winfried Schafer's team welcomes Kuwait, which currently ranks 120 in FIFA's World Ranking, this Wednesday at the Rajamangala Stadium. With both separated by just six places in the Asian ranking it should become a tie at eye level. With the knowledge about the away weakness of the Thais, above all in appearances in the West-Asian area, it surely is an extremely crucial match. But that's what opening games are mostly associated with anyway.

Thailand and Kuwait up to now have met nine times, with Wednesday's visitors leading the record 4-5 with no draw. The last time the two had met was in 2001 in Bangkok and Thailand came away with a 5-4 win after being down at half-time.

The National team of Kuwait had his best times at the end / start of the 1980's and at the end of the last millennium. Following Kuwait's only Asian Championship crown in 1980, the nation qualified for its up to now, only participation at World Cup stage. There, at the World Championships 1982 in Spain, the Czech Republic could held to a 1-1 draw. The recent "Gulf Cup of Nations", if you like an equivalent to the AFF Suzuki Cup, could be finished as third behind the Emirates and Iraq.

To be able to judge the opponent a little bit better: Though Thailand has at least one participant in the AFC Champions League while Kuwait in contrast have only two places in the AFC Cup. However, with Kuwait SC the golf nation produced one of the most successful clubs in recent years  in this competition. Muang Thong fans will remember painfully.

Unfortunately, we don't have the squad list of Kuwait on hand why we are not able to go on detail with certain players. Nevertheless, most of the nominees might come from Kuwait SC, Qadsia SC (Thai ports opponent during the AFC Cup 2010), and Al-Arabi. And we just can assume that Goalkeeper Khalid Al-Rashidi is part of the team, who is under contract with English side Nottingham Forest since beginning of this year. The first opponent of Thailand is coached by the 41-year-old Serbian Goran Tufegd×ic who is at office since 2009 and has been assistant coach to the eleven already before.

Another preparation not up to perfection

Like so often in the past the preparation of the Thai national team has been hampered and didn't went without problems. First, not all players appeared as planned to the training camp which Schafer had set for the 29 January according to his own information. Instead, "somebody" shifted the appointment to 1 February. And the German didn't hold back and showed his anger during a press conference in the last days. Because above all he hoped some injured players could gain back 100% fitness and health with the help of his staff.

Besides, the situation isn't easy. Neither for Winni nor for one or the other player involved. The seasons end in October was followed by the training camp for the AFF Cup first, and the competition itself later which lasted until Christmas. With the King's Cup in January the German coach had to call his players up again. Although he rested certain key players. However, at the same time the clubs began with the preparation for the upcoming TPL season. Which of course comes along with many warm-up games. Not least this might have been one reason why "someone" postponed the training camp.

In consideration of the called off international against the Emirates at short notice, planned for 31 January, the question arises: what would probably have happened if it would have taken place as planned? Would have Muang Thong and Chonburi released their players? Would have these players fielded by their clubs during test and friendly games rather than with the national side? However that be. At the end Winfried Schafer had to be content with a practice match(3x 30 minutes) against TPL promoted side Ratchaburi FC.

After deducting all injured and suspended players Winfried Schafer should be able to field his regular starting eleven so that we are able to see the same team which playfully knew to convince in the course of the Suzuki Cup. Although midfield maestro Datsakron Thonglao will not be in his best condition, he hopes to play without any bigger problems.

After confirmation from the AFC, initially nominated Bangkok Glass FC midfielder Teeratep Winothai was put off the list as he is suspended for four games. While Phichitpong Cheuichieu, off whom everyone thought he would be suspended, isn't. And he is therefore ready to enter the pitch. Thailand's number two between the posts, Sinthaweechai, wasn't even called up by the German coach. The reason: He is given time to cure an injury on his finger he carries now for about one year.

In the final press conference Schafer urged his players to perform at same level as against Singapore: "We want every player to play like they did in the Suzuki Cup final against Singapore in Bangkok" and knows how to take on Wednesday's opponent in saying: "I know the style of teams from the Middle East and we will have to put them under pressure for 90 minutes to disrupt their rhythm."

Meanwhile Kuwait's coach Tufegd×ic unveiled that he was a bit surprised on the skills of the Thais when watching the DVD's from the AFF Cup he stated: "We have been in Thailand for five days now and our preparation has been good. I respect Thailand - they have had very good results recently" But added: "Every time our team plays we want to take three points, but it will be a very difficult match for both teams."

The ticket sale for the match started only this Tuesday because the Rajamangala Stadium had to be inspected by the AFC on Monday. Just peanuts one could think. However, the inspectors found the pitch in a very bad state. Apparently since the last big event, the "Red Bull Racing" in December, no one really looked after the green which now looks bumpy and shows some green spraying. However, after Kuwait being questioned whether they are fine with the conditions, which they agreed, the AFC inspectors gave their green light.

Tickets for the game can be purchased at the boxes around the Stadium in categories of 100, 200, 300 and 500 Baht. Kick off will be at 19:00 local time and NBT 11 are to broadcast live. On that note: Thailand Susu.
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