Thailand coach expects to top U23 Asian Cup group

By Hoang An   November 24, 2023 | 06:48 pm PT
Thailand coach expects to top U23 Asian Cup group
Issara Sritaro as an assistant coach for Thailand U23 at the 2022 U23 Asian Cup. Photo courtesy of the Football Association of Thailand
Despite facing strong teams like Saudi Arabia and Iraq, coach Issara Sritaro still believes Thailand will top group C at the 2024 U23 Asian Cup.

"I'm satisfied with the draw results, with Thailand in the third seed group," Sritaro told Khaosod. "The three opponents in group C are strong, but they are not too different. We can play any opponent.

Sritaro said that Thailand’s first goal is to get past the group stage.

"We will try our best to top the table," the 43-year-old coach said. "Of course, facing teams like Saudi Arabia and Iraq is difficult, but Thailand can do it. If we top group C, we will meet Vietnam, Kuwait or Malaysia in the quarterfinals. That will make it easier for Thailand in the knockout round."

Like Vietnam, Thailand have qualified for the U23 Asian Cup in all five recent editions.

The 16 participating teams in the main tournament are divided into four seeding groups, based on the results of the previous round. Vietnam are in group two, Thailand in group three, Indonesia and Malaysia in group four. After the draw on Thursday, Thailand were placed in group C with defending champions Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Tajikistan, while Vietnam are in group D with Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Malaysia.

Both Saudi Arabia and Iraq have been champions before, while this is Tajikistan's second time qualifying for the tournament. At the national team level, Saudi Arabia and Iraq are much stronger than Thailand. However, the difference between teams at the U23 level may be smaller, because Thailand had a draw against Saudi Arabia in 2016 and Iraq in 2020.

The winner of group C will meet the runner-up of group D in the quarterfinals. Uzbekistan, runners up in the previous edition, reached the semifinals in all three recent Asia Cups and their U20 team also just won the U20 Asian Cup. They are likely to take the top spot in group D while Vietnam, Kuwait and Malaysia will compete for the remaining spot.

The U23 Asian Cup takes place every two years, and is considered the final qualifying round of the Olympics. The 2024 U23 Asian Cup will take place from April 15 to May 3 in Qatar, with 16 teams of four groups playing in a round-robin format.

The top two teams in each group will advance to the quarterfinals. The top three teams in the tournament will qualify for the 2024 Olympic Paris, while the fourth-place team will face Guinea in a playoff to compete for the remaining spot at the Olympics.

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