When coaches are interviewed, usually they take great pains to underline the fact that the key to their success lies in team spirit. Speak to Victor Hermans however, who is in charge of the Thai national futsal team, and when the name Suphawut Thueanklang comes up, it soon becomes very clear that the No9 for the hosts of the FIFA Futsal World Cup is someone special.
"Suphawut is the real star of our team," Hermans told FIFA.com. "He is a very clever player and one who is easy to work with. But off the pitch he is just a regular young lad. I am amazed that he plays here in Thailand and not abroad. He's two-footed and he has a real winning mentality. I'm sure that he'll soon be finding his way over to Europe to play for one of the big clubs there."
High praise indeed, so we decided to find out for ourselves just what Suphawut is like. We caught up with the 23-year-old at the end of Thailand's final training session before the Round of 16 match against European champions Spain, and asked him about how he likes to play and what he hopes to achieve.
FIFA.com: Suphawut, it was touch and go as to whether Thailand would qualify for the Round of 16. How do you feel after the group stages and all the drama?
Suphawut Thueanklang: I'm delighted that we're through to the second phase of the World Cup. It was our aim and one that we've been working towards for more than a year. Now we can look forward to the next match.
What does the national futsal team's success mean to people in Thailand? The whole country seems to be cheering you on.
It means a great deal to people in my home country. They were really hoping that we would make it through to the knock-out stage. We're very much in the public eye since all the fans are watching us. And any success we have makes our supporters happy.
The round of 16 will see you take on European champions Spain. What are you hoping for from this match against one of the FIFA Futsal World Cup favourites?
We definitely have a chance of reaching the quarter-finals. The main advantage that we have is that we will be playing at home, in front of our own fans. We're definitely going to give it more than 100 per cent, and if we do that, anything is possible.
You are widely accepted as being the best player in the Thai team. How do you see your role within the squad?
I know that everyone is expecting a lot from me, but when I pull my home country's jersey on, I just go out there to do my job and give it my all in every match. And I'll be doing the same against Spain, and hopefully this will help the whole team to be successful.
You are currently plying your trade in Thailand but your excellent performances at the FIFA Futsal World Cup are making you the focus of some attention. What are your personal goals as far as your career is concerned?
My dream is one day to play futsal professionally in Europe. I've already played in Iran but I'd like to take the next step now and head over to Europe.
On the pitch we've come to know you as a free-flowing, technically very gifted player. What kind of person are you off the pitch?
I'm a very open and friendly type of guy who gets on well with everyone. I like chatting to people and enjoy sharing my futsal skills with kids. It's a real thrill for me to be able to pass on my experience to youngsters.
Watching the Thai team at this FIFA Futsal World Cup is certainly very entertaining. How would you describe the team's playing style?
Our squad is made up of very young players who are taking part in their first World Cup. We're trying to be solid in defence and then launch dangerous counter-attacks. At the moment, we're looking a little inexperienced in certain situations, and this is causing us to make mistakes that opponents at this level will punish.
Victor Hermans, who is a very experienced coach, thinks extremely highly of you. How important is it to have a coach like him ahead of the match against Spain?
Our coach will prepare the match against Spain right down to the last detail. He sets great store by making sure that we are well organised in defence and then gradually try to work our way forwards.
Is there anything that you would like to say to the fans before what is perhaps the most important match of your career, against Spain?
I hope that our fans will be there to fill the stadium against Spain. I think that the capacity is 7,000, and I hope that all the seats will be taken when I come out onto the pitch. If we can feel the crowd fully behind us, then I think that we'll have a chance of beating Spain.