Thailand, Saudi Arabia eye spots in knockout stage on Sunday

Thailand, Saudi Arabia eye spots in knockout stage on Sunday

QLNews
By QLNews

Thailand, who defeated Kyrgyzstan 2-0 in their opening game in Group F of the AFC Asian Cup, will look to do the same against Oman at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium on Sunday and qualify for the knockout stage.

GROUP F
OMAN VS THAILAND

Kick-off: 5:30PM
Venue: Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium

Branko Ivankovic has full faith in his Oman side to get the job done when they face Thailand in their 2023 AFC Asian Cup Group F tie on Sunday.

Satisfied with his team’s spirited performance despite the 1-2 loss to Saudi Arabia in their opening match, Ivankovic is certain Oman have what it takes to bounce back and reignite their knockout stage hopes. 

“When we saw the draw, we knew that it was a difficult group. With all due respect to our next opponents, our primary objective is to win. We’re fully prepared and want to be focused and play as good a game as we did against Saudi Arabia,” said the Croat.

Against three-time champions Saudi Arabia, Oman held on to their 1-0 lead for 78 minutes before conceding twice which — according to Ivankovic — was a clear indication of what his players are capable of.

“We proved against Saudi Arabia that we’re able to match any opponent we face. They’re one of the favourites and were the only team to beat the world champions (Argentina) last year (FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022). Against such a tough opponent, we lost out only in the 97th minute. I understand the anger and sadness of the fans, but I’ve a lot of belief in this team. I’m proud of them and am not going to make unnecessary changes,” he added.

Thailand kicked off their journey with a 2-0 win against Kyrgyzstan but head coachMasatada Ishii refused to let his players get carried away. 

“Starting the competition on a winning note is obviously great, and it gave us a fair idea of how well-prepared we’re,” said Ishii, who led Kashima Antlers to the J1 League in 2016.

“But we were handed a heavy defeat by Japan (5-0 in a friendly) not so long ago. So, while I’m pleased to have collected three points, I think there’s still work to be done. Oman have a very strong midfield, and a lot of our work is to find ways to contain them,” he said.

 

GROUP F
KYRGYZSTAN VS SAUDI ARABIA

Kick-off: 8:30pm
Venue: Ahmad bin Ali Stadium

Head coaches Roberto Mancini and Stefan Tarkovic believe their respective sides can learn a lesson or two from Iraq’s 2-1 win against Japan on Friday, as Saudi Arabia and Kyrgyzstan prepare to face-off in Group F of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup on Sunday.

Having come from a goal behind to defeat Oman 2-1 in their opening match, the Green Falcons need a win to book their place in the Round of 16, but for Mancini, the task will not be easy against a Kyrgyzstan side ranked 40 places below them, as shown by 68th-ranked Iraq defeating 18th ranked Japan.

“I think Kyrgyzstan are a good team. No one thought Iraq could beat Japan, but that’s football. After many years in football, you continue to learn every day. The first lesson is that every game is difficult, and things can change at any point during the match, and that’s why your concentration needs to be 100% every minute,” said Mancini, who is managing Saudi Arabia in a major tournament for the first time, having joined them in September 2023.

“Sure, the first game is the most difficult, but it’s behind us now. It’s important for us to try to win the second too, because we want to close this situation very fast, and for this, we’ve to play a very good game,” he added.

The Italian tactician, who previously led his home country to the Euro 2020 title, employed a three-man defence in all competitive matches since taking over the Green Falcons’ job, beating Pakistan 4-0 and Jordan 2-0 in the Joint Qualifiers before starting the AFC Asian Cup campaign with a 2-1 win over Oman, and Mancini believes the players have already started to adapt to his ways.

“After we started to play with this system, we conceded only one goal from a penalty. The defenders played very well in the last game, but we can play with four or five defenders, that doesn’t matter. What matters is the quality we put on the pitch and how we defend. The personality and the mentality we put in the match matters more,” he said.

For Kyrgyzstan, the 0-2 defeat against Thailand in their campaign opener came as a blow, but the central Asian side had also lost their opening match in UAE 2019 then recovered to advance to the Round of 16 on their AFC Asian Cup debut.

Head coach Stefan Tarkovic wants his side to take inspiration from teams like Iraq and Syria to show their fighting spirit against a theoretically superior Saudi Arabia.

“We came here to show our best performance and our best football. The first match wasn’t ideal, so we need to learn from our mistakes. The things we did wrong at both boxes, we were discussing how we can do better against Saudi Arabia, and that’s the most important thing,” said Tarkovic.

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