Thailand may be usual underdogs at the 11-a-side game, but on the futsal court they are one of Asia's finest sides. At the FIFA Futsal World Cup Chinese Taipei 2004, 'The Nation of Smiles' registered a memorable 3-2 win over Australia. Under coach Jose Maria Pazos Mendez, the talented Thais will now aim to cause a stir at Brazil 2008.
Even before the tournament kick-off, hosts Thailand were tipped to challenge favourites Iran. Despite the expectations, however, they started slowly but managed nonetheless to eke out a narrow win over Iraq. An 11-0 reverse of Indonesia showed their credentials thereafter, and then came a 3-1 win over Kyrgyzstan. Thailand's 5-3 quarter-final defeat of Australia sealed their progression to this year's FIFA Futsal World Cup, and they then undid China PR to reach the continental decider, where they fell 4-0 to Iran.
Mendez proved his pedigree as an international coach as he successfully transformed a team of talented individuals into a winning unit in only two months in charge. Qualification for Brazil 2008 came as further proof of the team's potential. "We were given a very short time to prepare for the competition but we have made a lot of positive changes with the team," Mendez said following the Asian preliminaries. "Progression to the World Cup is the most important of all."
Facts and figures
Ekkapong Suratsawang, Nuttapan Narmboonmee, Janta Panuwat
Thailand scored 27 goals en route to the final against Iran.
The numbers game
3 - The number of times Thailand have qualified for the FIFA Futsal World Cup.