After making a dismal start to their campaign with a 2-1 loss to defending champions Malaysia, the Thais, who won the title eight consecutive times, bounced back by recording a 4-0 win against lowly Cambodia on Friday.
The victory was a flattering outcome, given that they were made to toil for long periods before scoring three goals in the space of 10 minutes late in the second half.
Such an unconvincing performance, which came after a lethargic display in the Malaysia fixture, in which they were fortunate not to have lost by a bigger margin, hardly inspired optimism ahead of the meeting with unbeaten Indonesia.
With the Thais currently languishing in fourth place with three points from two matches, only a win against the hosts, who top the standings with a perfect record, would do for them if they are to avoid an early exit for the second consecutive time. A defeat is likely to spell an end to their campaign even before the final group game against Singapore.
Thailand face the daunting prospect of playing in a hostile atmosphere at the Bung Karno Stadium, which has a capacity of nearly 100,000 and no doubt will be packed to its rafters by raucous home support. Mental strength, therefore, will be the key. Kasem Jariyawatwong, the team manager, is convinced that his players are well equipped to handle such a pressure situation.
“We’re not out yet. We have two matches left to fight for our survival. Whether we could do it or not, we have to give our utmost. I am trying to keep the team motivated. We were down when we saw what people thought about our performance on the Internet. We’ll keep fighting.
“It’s normal that form would fluctuate sometimes. There’s nothing to be gained by making rash judgements. The players are still young and they need the support of the fans.
“We’re improving each game. Each player seems to have found his rhythm. There’s no doubt that the game against Indonesia will be tough. The stadium will be turned into a cauldron by the home fans.
“I think the experience of playing in the Thailand Premier League would stand the players in good stead for this kind of game. We have no choice but to win,” said Kasem.
Theerathon Bunmathan will sit out the World Cup qualifier at home to Australia on Tuesday, serving his suspension for a red card in the 3-0 away loss to Saudi Arabia. As a result, Kasem said, the left back would join the team earlier than scheduled. He reckoned that a decision on whether to field the player against the Indonesians needed to be made in the best interest of his health.
“Theerathon will arrive here at noon tomorrow. We have to check on his condition. It would be too selfish if we risk the health of a player for the victory of the team. I already got confirmation that his suspension in the WC qualifiers would not apply in the SEA Games.”