Chanathip absence offers Supachok perfect chance to step up for Thailand

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

FOX Sports Asia football editor Gabriel Tan believes Thailand have the perfect candidate to fill Chanathip Songkrasin’s void in Supachok Sarachat against Congo and United Arab Emirates.

He has been the team’s playmaker-in-chief for over half a decade now and is regarded as the crown jewel of Thai football.

So it is only natural that alarm bells started ringing when it was confirmed that Chanathip Songkrasin was ruled out of Thailand’s 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier against United Arab Emirates on October 15, after picking up an injury with Consadole Sapporo during the warm-up ahead of Saturday’s tie with Gamba Osaka.

Along with Chanathip, the War Elephants will also be without midfielder Thitipan Puangchan and attacking right-back Tristan Do, robbing them of three offensive outlets ahead of a crunch tie that will be preceded by a friendly against Congo five days earlier.

It does complicate matters for coach Akira Nishino against a side who reached the semi-finals of AFC Asian Cup 2019 back in January, although he could have the perfect player ready to step up in Supachok Sarachat.

Expectations surrounding Supachok have always been high since he made his debut for Buriram United as a 17-year-old and – four years on – he has thus far showed no signs that he will not deliver on his potential.

Already last month, he produced a star turn scoring two goals, and winning a penalty that was converted by Theerathon Bunmathan, to inspire the Thais to a 3-0 win over Indonesia which kickstarted their Group G campaign after a 0-0 draw with Vietnam.

Supachok Sarachart finishes lovely team goal in Thailand’s 0-3 win over Indonesia

As a young player still developing, his versatility has stood him in good stead as he has gained an education performing a variety of roles in several positions.

Having been deployed as an out-and-out striker against Vietnam before shining as a left-sided forward against the Indonesians, while Buriram have even used him in central midfield.

Nonetheless, his skill set suggests that he will eventually be best deployed as a central attacking midfielder, where he can make full use of his creative abilities to carve apart opposition defences.

 

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For a 21-year-old, he has significant experience with four seasons at Thailand’s dominant club under his belt, which includes taking on Asia’s top teams in the AFC Champions League, along with plenty of international exposure at age-group level having featured at both the AFC U-23 Championship and Asian Games last year.

With talismanic veteran Teerasil Dangda and Suphanat Mueanta, Supachok’s 17-year-old prodigy of a younger brother, returning from injury, the War Elephants have more options in attack this time.

Chanathip and Supachok embrace after the win over Thailand

As a result, that could free Supachok to exert more influence in a withdrawn role.

In the mid-term future, his path to the No. 10 jersey will be blocked by Chanathip and he might still have to settle for a spot elsewhere in the attacking third.

But over the next fortnight, there is no better opportunity for him to show he has what it takes to be Thailand’s playmaker-in-chief.

Photo credit: Football Association of Thailand

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