Thailand will return to the AFC Asian Cup for the first time since 2007. The War Elephants have an extremely poor record in Asia’s premier competition, winning just one match in total, and on the occasion of their much-hyped return, FOX Sports Asia winds the clock back to 2007; the year of their only triumph.
The 2007 AFC Asian Cup was a memorable event for a number of reasons. From as many as four countries hosting the competition to Australia making their debut and a seventh nation being crowned champions of Asia, the 2007 edition is arguably the most fondly remembered of all Asian Cups till date.
Thailand fans though will remember it for a different reason altogether.
Thailand served as co-hosts for the competition alongside Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam, and gained an automatic spot in the group stages as a result.
Drawn alongside Iraq, Australia and Oman, the odds were stacked against the War Elephants from the outset.
They opened their campaign with a 1-1 draw against Iraq, Sutee Suksomkit’s early penalty cancelled out by Younis Mahmoud’s strike. It was only going to get better from there though.
Matched up with Oman for their second game, Charnwit Pholchiwin’s side looked off-color at the start and 19000 screaming fans at the Rajamangala were left rather disappointed as the half-time whistle sounded with the score still at 0-0.
Oman looked quite unflustered at the back, but tired legs were definitely evident in the visitors’ camp, which prompted the War Elephants manager to force striker Pipat Thonkanya to warm up on the sideline.
Replacing Therdsak Chaiman just before the hour mark, it took Pipat just 12 minutes to send Thailand one-nil up and on the verge of creating history, slotting coolly past the keeper.
With time ticking on, Oman were forced high up the pitch, a tactic that played into the hands of the hosts who looked content to sit back and absorb pressure before hitting devastatingly on the break.
Teeratep Winothai, another substitute, cushioned a beautiful header into the path of Pipat, who produced his own hand of god moment to bring it down before smashing home past a helpless Oman keeper, sending the fans into delirium.
Eight minutes were all that were left for the hosts to hold on to create their own slice of history and that they did with ease, securing their first ever – and till date only – win in the Asian Cup.
All the optimism their victory had generated was obliterated within a week though, with the War Elephants succumbing to a humbling 4-0 victory to debutants Australia, to crash out of the 2007 Asian Cup.
After two unsuccessful attempts to return to Asia’s biggest stage, Thailand are now back where they belong and there is still one man standing from that 2007 team; one man looking to rewrite history.
Teerasil Dangda was a part of the War Elephants’ 2007 squad, mainly featuring as a substitute, and he is now back, as captain this time, to try and ensure fans have a new reason to celebrate.
Even if Teerasil does inspire Thailand to a few wins this time around though, 2007 will always be fondly remembered by Thai fans for the year that saw their beloved side win their first ever Asian Cup match.