"It’s good we are not in the same group with Vietnam as well as Malaysia. Thanks to that, we can watch and analyze these teams to find a proper strategy when we face them in the later rounds. I think Vietnam and Malaysia will get past group B," Srimaka told Thai site Siam Sport.
Thailand used to be the number one team in Southeast Asia after scoring the AFF Cup title in 2016. However, they have lost the throne to Vietnam in recent years. In 2018, Thailand were eliminated in the semifinal of AFF Cup, while Vietnam claimed the title. A year later, the Thailand U23 team also failed in SEA Games, where Vietnam clinched the gold medal.
In AFF Cup 2021, both Thailand and Vietnam are the first seeds and placed in different groups. Thailand are in group A with Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and the winner of the play-off between Brunei and Timor-Leste. Vietnam are in group B with Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos.
"I think group A is easier than group B, but we still have to be careful because the teams in Southeast Asia know each other really well. However, I believe Thailand will advance to the semifinal," Srimaka said.
To take back the number one position in Southeast Asia, Thailand recruited Japanese coach Akira Nishino for the national team in July 2019. But Thailand still performed poorly, especially in the second round of World Cup qualifiers, where they were eliminated. Vietnam and the UAE were the two teams in group G that advanced to the final round.
The Football Association of Thailand parted ways with Nishino after that and gave the head coach position to Anurak Srikerd.
"Despite having won the AFF Cup five times, we cannot drop our guard. To win our sixth AFF Cup title, the team must prepare and compete with their best," said Nualphan Lamsam, manager of the Thai national team.
AFF Cup 2021 is set to take place from Dec. 5, 2021 to Jan. 1, 2022. Due to Covid-19, the tournament will be hosted in a single country, which will be decided in late September.
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