Outsmarted by his Indonesian counterpart in Wednesday’s first leg, Thailand coach Kiatisuk Senamuang has to make sure he gets things right in the return in Bangkok.
Trailing 2-1, Thailand will still be favoured to finish the job in front of a huge home crowd at the Rajamangala but as Indonesia have shown throughout the knockout stages they are more than capable of stifling free-flowing teams and this is the puzzle that Zico must now solve.
Much may depend on how the younger coach chooses to set things up tactically and FOX Sports Asia takes a look at some of the options available to the War Elephants as they try to break down what will surely be a resolute Merah Putih outfit.
STICK WITH THE TRIED AND TESTED 3-4-3
Bar the opening match of the tournament Thailand have stuck true to their preferred formation that has led to great success over the past twelve months or so.
Key to the approach is the attacking work of the fullbacks, Teerathon Bunmathan and Tristan Do, which allows the War Elephants to flood the final third with up to as many as five or six players where their ease in possession has created a whole host of chances.
The problem is, as we saw in the first leg, the incessant pressing of Indonesia can easily lead to frequent turnovers in advanced areas which in turn exposes the team to counters.
This system also seems to dull the threat of the team’s most creative outlet, Chanathip Songkrasin, who is often reduced to a wider role on the left of the front three and Zico may want to think long and hard about how he can get him on the ball more often.
SWITCH TO 4-2-3-1 AND LIBERATE CHANATHIP
If the idea is to get your best attacking option on the ball more often then it makes sense to shake things up and play him in a more liberated role.
By dropping the wingbacks, Teerathon and Do, into more traditional fullback roles, culling the central defenders from three to two but still maintaining the midfield base it allows Chanathip to occupy a central playmaking role.
With the Muangthong man then able to play in the hole, just behind Teerasil Dangda, he has far more space in which to operate and can help to drag the two key Indonesian midfielders, Manahati Lestusen and Bayu Pradana, out of position.
It also works against a strong press to have a player such as Chanathip, so comfortable in possession and equally at ease taking players on, as the attacking fulcrum as it would mean the visitors would need at least two players in and around him at all times.
EMPLOY A 4-4-2 WITH SIROCH AS A FOIL FOR TEERASIL
When the match was on the line in the last twenty minutes in Bogor, Kiatisuk made a couple of key tactical moves that helped to give Thailand a slight respite against the relentless Indonesian press.
Midfielder Charyl Chappuis is a different kind of player to Pokklaw Anan and with the steady Sarach Yooyen happy to sit and shield things at the base by starting Chappuis alongside him it gives the Thais a genuine ‘number 8’ – a box to box midfielder who can offer a more incisive passing game and who is also comfortable in one-on-one duels.
The main benefit of a 4-4-2 though is to offer a foil for Teerasil, with the powerful Siroch Chatthong just the kind of player to cause indecision at the back for Indonesia.
A burly frontman who plays in the second tier of Thai football, he’s been one of the revelations of the tournament with several impressive showings off the bench and being just as impressive on the ground as is in the air he can help to divert attention from Teerasil, in turn freeing the deadly marksman to have a key influence on the match.
The other possibility here is to have Peerapat Notchaiya play as the left fullback, and push Teerathon up into an attacking role as a winger, thus increasing the overall potency of the two most advanced attacking lines.