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Rajevac plots War Elephants’ progress

FOOTBALL: Thailand coach Milovan Rajevac has set his sights on closing the gap between Southeast Asia’s leading nation and the continent’s top countries as the clock ticks closer to the AFC Asian Cup finals in 2019.

football
Agency: Bangkok Post

Tuesday 1 August 2017, 10:09AM


Thailand coach Milovan Rajevac during the King's Cup final against Belarus at Rajamangala National Stadium. Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill

Thailand coach Milovan Rajevac during the King's Cup final against Belarus at Rajamangala National Stadium. Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill

Thailand will return to the finals of the continental championship 18 months from now for the first time since co-hosting the event in 2007, and Rajevac is aiming to turn the War Elephants into a team capable of matching the best in Asia.

“We have already lost our chance to qualify for the [2018] World Cup,” the Serb, who led Ghana to the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, told www.the-afc.com.

“Still, there are a few matches to be played at the end of this competition. Of course, the Asian Cup is going to take place in 18 months from now. So it’s definitely time to start building a new group and a team who can challenge at the AFC Asian Cup.

“Of course, my target is to try to bring Thailand among the best Asian teams – at the level of Australia, Japan and South Korea in the future. That would be great.”

However, it is unclear if Rajevac will be in charge when the 2019 Asian Cup arrives as he has singed only a one-year contract with the Football Association of Thailand (FAT).

Thai football has been undergoing a resurgence at Asian level in recent years, with the country advancing to the final phase of qualifiers for Russia 2018 and also making the AFC U23 Championship finals last year in Qatar.

But the gap between Rajevac’s new charges and the summit of the Asian game remains significant.

Thailand have yet to win a match in Asia’s final World Cup qualifying for the 2018 tournament, but the Serbian coach believes he has already seen improvements since taking over in May.

“There is a lot of time ahead of us and I wouldn’t have accepted this challenge if I didn’t think It was possible and realistic,” he said.

“But it’s a hard task. We need to change many things, in terms of everything to try to achieve that level. It’s not a small gap in terms of quality between these countries, if you look at the rankings.

“But if we have a good approach with professional work and a lot of commitment and dedication from everybody we can do it. They still have to learn a lot of things, but I believe they have the potential to improve and challenge the other teams at the next Asian Cup in the UAE in 18 months.”

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Rajevac has led his team through four games so far, with Thailand losing to Uzbekistan in a friendly in Tashkent before being denied their first ever win in the final phase of World Cup qualifying by a late Ali Mabkhout goal in their 1-1 draw with the UAE in Bangkok last month.

The team followed those results with victory in the annual four-team King’s Cup this month, defeating North Korea in the first game before a penalty shoot-out win over Belarus gave Thailand the title.

“The good things here are that the people have passion and the determination and desire to succeed,” he said.

“They really like football here, but on the other hand there are a few problems we noticed from day one.

“If you look at the league, and the national team too, they are conceding many goals in the last 20 minutes. It can be as a result of inadequate fitness preparation or a lack of concentration, so we have to combine these two things to try to improve the level of fitness and also to approach this in terms of psychological preparation to overcome this problem for the future.

“This is definitely something we have to cope with. Of course, in the other areas, in terms of technical and tactical it can always be better, so we are going to try our best to improve all the other things, especially the tactical preparation.”

Thailand will next host Iraq in the World Cup qualifying round in Bangkok on Aug 31 before their final game at Australia in September.

Rajevac has replaced Kiatisak Senamuang, who quit in February after heavy defeats in the World Cup qualifying campaign.

He has won praise from FAT president Pol Gen Somyot Poompunmuang.

“I hope that we will be able to maintain our high standards in our future assignments as well,” he said after the King’s Cup.

Read original story here.

 

 

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