Thai U19 hopes to qualify for the AFC Championship 2016

Thailand U19

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Thailand's under-19 is starting its qualification campaign to the AFC Championship 2016 on Wednesday and wants to follow its U-16 and U-23 counterparts to the 2016 finals.

A few weeks ago Thailand's U-19 rolled through the regional AFF Championship almost literally, to win its fourth title by scoring the remarkable amount of 29 goals; conceding just two and without dropping any point. In the final the Thais even could overcome their old rival Vietnam by winning 5:0. Equipped with much momentum and confidence Anurak Srikerd's side now takes on the qualification tournament for the AFC Championships 2016.

In view of a good performance at the AFF Championships in September, the 23-man squad for the AFC qualifiers looks fairly solid. And with the 18-year old Siwakorn Sangwong a promising youngster has been added to the squad who was not part of the team for the regional Championship in Laos. Through his club Bangkok Glass he was given the chance to train in Germany at Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen on several occasions during his years as an academy player for the TPL outfit. In June against Osotspa FC he made his debut in the Thai Premier League and had 13 appearances since.

Meechok Marhasaranukun, Kittanai Mooktarakosa (both from TOT SC) and U-19 skipper Worachit Kanitsribampen (Chonburi FC & AFF championship top-scorer with six goals) are other players in the squad with Thai Premier League experience. Sumethee Khokpho from 2nd Bundesliga side Fortuna Düsseldorf has traveled to Thailand for the first time to join Thailand in the training camp. But it is reported he is not registered for the AFC Qualifiers. He is plagued with an injury to his finger and as far as possible he will train with the team. In case of a successful qualification he could play the finals next year, and so seems not a bad idea to make him join the camp and to get familiar with the other players and coaching staff.

Thanks to luck of the draw Thailand's under-19 got handed a doable group with only South Korea in the last game seem to be a tough test. During the qualification to the 2012 AFC Championship, Thailand was facing South Korea and Japan, but could finish top of them. But it has to be said, that the U-19 class of 2011 was something special in retrospect. Most of these players, including current "AFF Player of the Year" Chanathip Sonkrasin are now key players at their clubs and a backbone of the Thai senior national team.

Nevertheless voices of confidence have reached us from the camp. The group winner would qualify directly for the final tournament 2016 in Bahrain. The runner-up would have to hope to be among the five best runners up if to advance. Most recently Thailand's U-16 managed to squeeze into the final round next year with only three points and as the second-best runner-up.

In addition, Thailand enjoys the advantage of playing in front of its own fans. All matches involving the Thais are played at Muang Thong's SCG Stadium (Taiwan, 30.09., Northern Mariana Islands, 02.10., Singapore 04.10, South Korea 06.10.). Kick-off times set at 19:00. If one can't make it to the games, they are all live on TV, broadcast by Thairath TV and Siam Sport.

Should the U-19 succeed and advance to the final round, the trio with the already qualified U-23 and U-16 for the AFC tournaments 2016 would be complete.
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