Thailand’s Korrakot rates Vietnam as closest AFF Suzuki Cup contender

Thai defender Korrakot
Kelvin Leong Kelvin Leong

Thailand go into the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup on a mission to become the first nation to win three successive titles but defender Korrakot Wiriyaudomsiri is wary of rivals Vietnam.

The War Elephants are in Group B alongside Singapore, Indonesia, Timor-Leste and the Philippines — also known as the ‘Group of Death’ — and are expected to make it into the semi-finals despite the tough fixtures.

Should they make it into the knockout stages, they will come up against the likes of Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia or Laos from Group A.

While Korrakot is trying to focus on qualifying from Group B, he also has one eye fixed on the other group as he believes that the Thais’ biggest threat to the throne laid there.

“My opinion is that the biggest competition in this Suzuki Cup is Vietnam because they have developed and improved a lot. They have good players in the team and play a good brand of football,” the Buriram United star man told FOX Sports Asia.

“Their youth teams have also done well in recent years and a lot of those youngsters will be playing for them at this tournament so they are the team to watch because they have what it takes to win the title.”

While he made his debut for Thailand in 2013, it took him another five years before he earned a recall to the national team with Milovan Rajevac including the defender in the friendlies against China and Hong Kong.

The Buriram left-back’s dream of participating in the Suzuki Cup came to fruition when the Serbian tactician named Korrakot in his final 23-man squad for the 2018 edition.

With his hard work paying off, the 30-year-old was quick to pay tribute to the man who gave him the chance to impress at the Thunder Castles, and credited Buriram’s superb AFC Champions League run for his inclusion in the Thai setup.

He said: “All the credit should go to Buriram head coach (Bozidar) Bandovic who is my mentor and has helped get the best out of me on the pitch, especially this season with our packed scheduled in the league and champions league.

“Hard work got me here today but I am ready to get on the pitch if given the opportunity at the Suzuki Cup and play tough, play hard and get the results for the national team.

“There is no pressure at this moment because I always believe that I am competing against myself and if I give my all, I have done enough.”

The absence of national team captain Theerathon Bunmanthan has freed up the left-back spot in the team and it looks like a battle between Port FC’s Kevin Deeromram and Korrakot for the empty slot.

Rajevac has also toyed with a back-three formation in recent friendlies but one thing is for sure, whether Korrakot gets a starting role or has to come off the bench to get the job done, the stylish defender has only one thought on his mind.

“It is a player’s biggest honour and pride to represent your country. Thailand have always done well at the Suzuki Cup and being part of the team this time around, the objective is clear. I want to come away as a champion and to help retain the trophy for my country.” he declared.

Thailand open their campaign with an ‘away’ game against Timor-Leste at the Rajamangala Stadium on Friday.

It is designated as a home fixture for the Timorese but they have been assigned to play their first game at the Rajamangala Stadium as their National Stadium in Dili, East Timor is ruled to be not “match ready”.

Photo credit: Changsuek and Buriram United Facebook