Thailand football 2018 Review – Kings dethroned, league embracing change, and a little stagnation

A semifinal run in a major cup competition coupled with a solidly functioning league and the development of young talent would represent a relatively successful season for most teams, but for Thailand, it was one filled with disappointments.

FOX Sports Thailand Editor Teerapatra Rundhasevi takes a detailed look at all that took place in Thai football this past year.

The National Team

Thailand began the 2018 season by making the final of the 46th King’s Cup, losing to Slovakia; an inkling of things to come later in the year maybe?

The War Elephants did, however, surge up the FIFA rankings, moving 12 spots from 130 to 118. Widely expected to dominate the AFF Suzuki Cup, manager Milovan Rajevac opted to surprisingly name a second-string squad for the competition despite being defending champions.

Breezing through the group stages, they ultimately came undone at the hands of an inspired Malaysian side in the semifinals, crashing out of the competition on away goals after Adisak Kraisorn skied a last-gasp penalty.

Meanwhile, Thailand’s women’s team Chaba Kaew established themselves as one of the best teams in Asia with a fourth-place finish in the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup.

The women’s team capped off a brilliant year by triumphing at the 2018 AFF Women’s Championship, beating Australia in the final.

Youth Development

2018 proved to be a year that promised oh so much but resulted in very little for Thailand. The U16 side and U19 sides both failed to bring home a single trophy.

Thai U16s fell at the final hurdle in the 2018 AFF U-16 Youth Championship, losing to Indonesia in the final.

The U23s, on the other hand, had a year to forget, crashing out of the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship in the group stages after failing to win a single game.

The Asian Games held the same script, with Thailand drawing to Bangladesh and Qatar but losing their pivotal encounter against eventual champions Uzbekistan.

However, despite the results, a couple of youngsters did leave their mark, led by none other than Supachai Jaided.

Thai League

2018 witnessed the Thai League embrace change like never before. With new quotas for foreign players and the introduction of technology, the league took its first steps into a new era.

The arrival of VAR on Thai shores was the answer to repeated pleas by the team managements to eliminate human error in matches, signalling the dawn of a new era in Thai football.

While there was a discernible drop in stadium turnout, this was offset by the massive increase in online and TV viewership; another sign of the changing times.

Buriram continued their dominance in the competition, winning 28 of 34 games and picking up a whopping 87 points to lift their sixth league title.

Chiangrai United, on the other hand, picked up a historic treble, winning the Thailand Champions Cup, FA Cup, and Toyota League Cup.

What’s new in 2019?

2019 has a lot in store for Thailand and manager Milovan Rajevac in particular, having been issued an ultimatum by the FA to ensure at least a berth in the knockout stages of the AFC Asian Cup 2019.

Milovan could even see his contract be terminated if the War Elephants fail to meet expectations, which places a lot of pressure on the shoulders of the man in charge as well as his wards, whose best finish in Asia’s premier footballing event came way back in 1972.

Thailand will enter the 2019 Southeast Asian Games as defending champions and will keenly eye a repeat of the feat they achieved two years ago.

The Thai League 1 promises to be bigger and better than ever before, with modifications to the ASEAN quota allowing teams to rope in as many as seven foreign players.

Lastly, the women’s team will look to scale new heights when they kick off their campaign in the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Drawn alongside USA, Chile and Sweden, Chaba Kaew will look to embark on a historic journey.

FOX Sports Asia Report Card Rating: B-

2018 was ultimately not the most fruitful of years for Thailand. While the national team took more steps back than it did forward, what was most impressive to see was the continued rise of the women’s team.

The Thai League continued its ascent in its quest to become one of the dominant leagues in Asia, but 2019 holds the real test with the Women’s World Cup as well as the 2019 AFC Asian Cup on the horizon.