The Football Association of Thailand celebrated its 100th anniversary this week, a fitting milestone in a year in which Thailand have made waves on the international scene.
In June, Thailand will turn out in the final phase of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, the first time in 15 years that they have done so.
Kiatisuk Senamuang’s side were the surprise performers in the second round of AFC qualifying for football’s showpiece event. The War Elephants were undefeated in Group F, and impressively held big-hitting Iraq both home and away as they topped the group.
The War Elephants are the only team from Southeast Asia to make to the final round of qualifying, and a look at the teams that Thailand will come up against is a sign of just how great their achievement is.
The likes of Japan, Australia, and Saudi Arabia are seasoned veterans when it comes to World Cups and come with great financial backing, established infrastructure, and world-class players – Thailand really are mixing it up with the big boys.
This recent success builds on the victory achieved in the 2014 ASEAN Championship, a trophy that brought a 12-year drought to an end. Looking ahead to the AFF Championship in November, Senamuang will feel that Thailand have a shot at another piece of silverware.
The War Elephants’ core of experienced players are complimented by up and comers which can make them consistently competitive. Key to Thailand’s success during their World Cup qualifying campaign was their ability to score goals (14 in six matches), while also remaining tight at the back (just six in as many games), if they’re able to repeat the feat at the AFF Championship there is no reason they can’t triumph. Teerasil Dangda was Thailand’s top goal scorer in the second round of qualifying, but his three goals stand as a representation of the teams effort which has seen the team thrive.
Thailand’s 100 years of football may not always have been littered with titles, but the current crop of players have what it takes to make the current era one to remember.