Yes, it is the same old problem of lapses in concentration which Kiatisak has been ruing about for a long time now.
“I have a bigger concern about my players suffering from lapses in concentration, which have already cost us two matches,” Kiatisak said.
He was responding to a question about the heat in Abu Dhabi ahead of Thailand’s match against the United Arab Emirates in the 2018 World Cup qualifying round.
He had added: “I am going to have man-to-man chats with the players. They need to understand the tactics and the importance of staying focused throughout the match.”
If any of those planned “man-to-man chats” at all took place in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, no reports to the extent emerged from the Thai camp.
However, what was quite evident in the Thailand’s 3-1 loss to the UAE in their third Group B of the final phase of Asian qualifiers was that their defenders were caught napping on more occasions than any coach can be comfortable with.
An honest appraisal will reveal that there was a great deal of sluggishness on the part of the Thai defenders as well, which was brutally exposed by Ali Mabkhout at least twice within the first 50 minutes as the War Elephants lost their third straight match.
There were quite a few Thai defenders present inside the box when Mabkhout obligingly netted his first goal after they had all let a feeble, low cross find its way from the right side to almost near the left post.
Omar Abdulrahman, the UAE midfield dynamo who was undoubtedly the man of the match, started threatening the Thais with his nifty footwork from the very beginning of the match. However, for more than 90 minutes, Kiatisak and his men couldn’t find a way of choking this lifeline feeding the UAE strike force.
Abdulrahman was allowed the luxury of picking up the ball in the midfield and setting up Mabkhout with a sublime through ball to make it 2-0 for the hosts just two minutes into the second half.
And why and how Mabkhout was able to breeze unchecked to a spot which gave him a clear view of the goal to unleash a scorching shot into the net should prove to be an interesting topic for discussions at one of those closed door team meetings, perhaps before the upcoming game against Iraq in Tehran tomorrow (Oct 11).
Here is another food for thought for the Thai team management.
In the second half, all of a sudden the Thai team, which had failed to fire a single shot on target in the entire first half, sprung into life and started giving their fancied opponents a great deal of headache.
What made this happen?
It was Kiatisak’s decision to replace tired old legs with Sriroch Chatthong and Tana Chanabut. Their arrival on the strip blew a new life into the Thai team and Tana even gave the War Elephants a glimmer of a hope to kick-start a recovery by pulling a goal back in the 67th minute.
The national team have already landed in Tehran for their next match and much rides on their tomorrow’s match with Iraq, but the game against the UAE – and even those versus Saudi Arabia and Japan – cannot be consigned to history books yet because there are valuable lessons to be learnt from it.
One thing the Thai team can’t afford at the moment is to take comfort from the fact that they drew Iraq twice – both in Bangkok and in Tehran – during the previous phase of the qualifiers for Russia 2018.
The Iraqi side which showed up in Japan last Thursday night ( Oct 6) fought tooth and nail and threatened time and again to bring down the Asian powerhouse before conceding the match in the last minute.
After three games, Australia and Saudi Arabia each have nine points in Group B, three ahead of the UAE and Japan.
Thailand and Iraq are still looking for their first point.
The War Elephants had embarked on this trip over a week ago, hoping for four points from the matches against the UAE and Iraq. That target has unfortunately become unachievable now.
Though difficult, the team can still resurrect their campaign.
There are three points to be had from the Iraq game and the Thais have a lot of catching up to do, for which they would need fresh ideas and probably younger legs as well.
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