Road to Canada - Goal festival for Holland and the fans

Thai women's national team Netherlands vs Thailand

Netherlands vs Thailand

The historic first meeting between the host from the Netherlands and Thailand resulted in a 0-7 defeat for the visitors. Despite of the result there were bright faces to be seen far after the game.

It was quite dark on the sparsely illuminated parking area in front of the Polman Stadium in Almelo. But despite the darkness one could spot smiling faces all around in the throng of fans and players a good hour after the game. Some hours before, when the players of the Thai women's national team arrived at the parking place in daylight, they disappeared on the shortest way inside the stadium with tension to read off their faces.

The game against the Netherlands was the first test during the Thai teams 4-week training camp to which they arrived just a few days before in Europe. And the players pinched faces at the arrival in Almelo reminded of the pictures of the first training sessions at temperatures around zero degrees. And drizzle and a light - but cold wind - in Almelo were certainly not suitable to warm up Thai minds.

This change, nevertheless, at the latest when the players were warming up on the pitch when they spotted more and more Thai fans and Thai flags in the small ground of the Polman Stadium and now and then smiles flashed over their faces. A good of 200 to 300 fans who held it primarily with Thailand, but also with the Netherlands, were not afraid of the weather and made their way to the first ever official international friendly of a Thai national team in Europe. And in spite of the coming 0-7 defeat, the mood among them remained well up to the end. "Thailad Susu" was chanted, drums where played, and Thai songs where sung throughout the game in the best possible force to support the team.

Head coach Sathongwien, who found her seat at the sideline in form of a black-and-white basket chair, fielded her allegedly best Eleven in 4-3-3-Formation. But even with such an attacking formation the Thais could create only a few threatening changes. Mostly on the break.

The game went off in such a way as one is used to it if Thailand has to play against teams like Japan (No. 4 of the world), Korea (17), China (13) or Australia (10). The Dutchwomen who have qualified for the Women's World Cup for the first time, just as Thailand did, are currently ranked 11 on the FIFA ranking. Thailand sits on 31 and ranks among the Top-6 in Asia! Above all these figures should just make clear how big the gap is in reality. Because by far greater than only 20 places which separate Thailand and the Netherlands in the world of women's football on the paper.

What have struck with the Elftal from Bondscoach Roger Reijners right from the start: The big technical strength, the tactical discipline and the ability to hold the ball in their own ranks. The ball was also played round the back sometimes if it helped the build-up. And the style of play really reminded of the male counterpart of the KNVB. So it was really impressive to watch the Leeuwinnen.

Warunee Phetwiset and Heiligenberg

Phetwiset and Heiligenberg

The first goal of the game and for the hosts came in the 14th minute and resulted from a disorganization in the box after three Thai players at the same time tried to close down Kirsten van de Ven but all have left a big gap in the middle of the penalty area. Again and again Van de Ven caused a lot of difficulties for the Thai defence. Especially down the right side. Sunisa Srungthaisong was completely out of her depth and the Dutchwoman was simply too fast for her. Particularly this could be seen in the build up of the second goal in the 26th minute when the rather big van de Ven played cat and mouse with Srungthaisong to set up the second the goal of the night.

Thailand went into the dressing room with a two goal deficit which was absolutely okay and it was something they could build on. And so the visitors had their best period during the early minutes of the second half when Thailand was able to produce some good chances and good have had scored. With six minutes gone in the second half Kanjana could make use of use of a mistake between two Dutch defenders but her shot went just wide. In the 57th minute it was Rattikarn Thongsombut who should have scored and seconds later, following a corner, it was Nisa Romyen who surprised goalkeeper Geurts with a back-heel that reminded of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Between the third goal for the Netherlands in the 61st minute and the fourth two minutes later, Vivianne Miedema (FC Bayern Munchen women's) has came on as a substitute and was decisively involved in the win. A luck for Thailand that the 18-year-old top-scorer of the U-19 Euro 2014, was not involved right from the start. In injury time it was the already mentioned Ven de Ven who scored the final goal and marked the end of the game.

All in all, and under the given circumstances it was not a bad match of the Thais who gave their best and tried everything up to the end to score a goal. But it clearly could be seen that, above all, the midfield lacks of creativity. Chances arose mostly from by chance and long balls. As unattractive as this might be nowadays, but coach Sathongwien maybe should just consider exactly such a tactic against stronger opponents and teams who like to move up.

The only weapon in offense against stronger teams seem to be Kanjana Sungngoen. She proved the Dutch defense a lot of times and caused them trouble with her pace, be in the middle or on the wings, and certainly would do well in one of the European top leagues. Number 1 Goalkeeper Waraporn Boonsing has her strengths on the line, and not in the penalty area. Which is why she really struggles against teams who constantly play on the box. But hardly there seem to be an alternative to her. And where it should it come from? Without any domestic competition in Thailand where talents could put themselves on to test and develop.

And so it is the general idea behind the camp, including all the tests in Europe, to get familiar with artificial turf which mainly serves as surface during the World Cup in Canada, and to gain valuable experiance against physical stronger opponents.

However, regarding the latter case the learning curve could be put in question. Because Thailand is playing against physical and strong teams in Asia on a regular basis with China, Australia as well as North and South Korea. But apart from a 2-2 draw in a test against China in autumn 2014, a progress over the last years against such opponents are almost not recognizable when it comes to results. The Thais never succeed against teams like the aforementioned and scorelines are always stagger between 0-4 and 0-7. Against opponents from Asia of the same level as the Thailand is, like Vietnam and Myanmar or even deeper ranked teams, they know to convince and are playing completely different football.

And since many of the Thai players know one another since their times from under-16/under-19, and most of the current squad is together in camp for two years now the question is why they there haven't been any improvement in recent years. Coaches? Training? No domestic league on a regular basis and hence the lack of fresh blood? Probably a bit of everything.

And while journalist were still talking about Thailand and the game against the Netherlands, it wasn't really an issue for the fans who where waiting outside the stadium, to greet the players. Dutch Vic Hermans, who is in charge of the Thai Futsal men's team and is helping the women's football team during their stay Europe, knew to help and organised it. And so everyone got his picture with his star player or autograph. Yes even Thai food was handed overt o the players for their three hour journey back to Maastricht.

The teams bus set off. One last greeting and the fans happily left the parking bay. Sometimes football is just more than a result or a preparation to a world cup. Or a 1520 kilometre and 43 hour round-tip for the scribbler.

Pikul Khueanpet

Pikul Khueanpet trying a selfie with fans

Players and fans posing for a picture after the game

Players and fans posing for a picture after the game

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