All to play for as War Elephants take on hosts UAE

The War Elephants need a result in the game to stay in contention for a place in the knockout stage, something they have not managed since the quadrennial tournament was revamped and expanded in 1980.

While a victory would almost guarantee Thailand to advance to the knockout stage of the tournament, even a draw could send them through. They could advance even with a loss, but that would depend on how other teams and other groups finish.

The UAE, as the hosts, are not yet assured of a place in the last 16 stage and they would not only be eager to advance but also would want to do so in an impressive manner at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain at 11pm (Thailand time).

The Thais, after a stunning 4-1 defeat at the hands of India in their first Group A game last week, stormed back into contention for a second-round spot with a 1-0 victory over Bahrain on Thursday.

The War Elephants have three points after two matches and are third in the group behind the UAE (four points) and India (three points). Bahrain have one point from their 1-1 draw with the UAE.

The top two teams in each of the six groups and four best third-placed teams will advance to the knockout stage. Also on Monday night, India will take on Bahrain in Sharjah.

After a lacklustre show in the draw with Bahrain last week, the hosts beat India 2-0 but failed to win over their fans.

A match simulation by popular YouTube channel owner “Corocus” with the Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 video game ended in a 1-0 victory for Thailand.

But even the best computer simulations can’t take in every factor, especially the human ones.

Thailand can expect a backlash from the UAE, whose veteran Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni is facing a growing chorus for his dismissal.

Zaccheroni has countered by saying: “We know that we failed our fans and we apologise to them. I have enough experience. My main objective is to win the Asian Cup.
“The Thais sacked their coach after their loss to India. They changed their style and went on to beat Bahrain.
“I now need to study Thailand closely in order to prepare my team for what will be a difficult match.”
Thailand’s caretaker coach Sirisak Yodyardthai is also seeking a result in the match and is in a confident mood.
“The atmosphere in the team is very good. The players are confident that they can qualify for the next round. Our victory over Bahrain has lifted the pressure on our shoulders a great deal,” Sirisak said on Saturday.
Thailand will be taking the field without defender Pansa Hemviboon who is suspended. Reports emerging from the Thai team camp suggest that the man likely to replace Pansa will be Bangkok United defender Mika Chunuonsee. “I am ready to do my best for the team. I haven’t played as a central defender for some time now, but it shouldn’t be a problem,” said Mika.
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