Thailand chase return to world stage
Thailand debuted at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup
Have the chance to qualify again over the coming fortnight in Jordan
Star forward Orathai Srimanee says qualification is “very important to inspire girls”
Thailand were one of the surprise qualifiers for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup™, reaching the world stage with an epic play-off win over Vietnam. They even marked their debut with an action-packed 3-2 victory against Cote d’Ivoire.
Four years on they are well placed to reprise that success and qualify for a second successive Women’s World Cup. To do so they will have to earn a top-five finish at the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, which commences in Jordan on Friday.
Drawn alongside China PR, Philippines and the hosts, Thailand need a top-two placing in their group to win a ticket to France 2019. Finishing third will mean a gruelling play-off, likely to be against one of Japan, Australia or Korea Republic.
Experience and youth
Grabbing the headlines four years ago was Orathai Srimanee, with the lively striker netting a double in that victory in Ottawa. Srimanee, who is also a veteran of Thailand’s hosting of the 2004 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Cup, believes her side are far better placed for success than they were ahead of qualifiers for Canada 2015.
“The experiences we enjoyed last time were massive,” Srimanee told FIFA.com. “We faced many big teams and have been trying to play against bigger teams since. Now we also are trying to deal with players with physical advantages.
“Our current team is much more lively [than four years ago]. We now have new players who previously played for Thailand U-19.
“Also there are four or five players who have never played for Thailand in an international tournament. Those new girls bring loads of enthusiasm to the team which makes us play a very active brand of football now.”
The desire to inspire Football in Thailand is undoubtedly on the up. Thai club teams have enjoyed several breakthrough victories in the past few seasons of the AFC Champions League, while the national team earned qualification for next year’s AFC Asian Cup for the first time in 15 years.
Thailand women’s team are three-time defending southeast Asian champions and their reputation is now starting to grow beyond the region. But Srimanee believes qualification for France is pivotal to the ongoing growth of the local game.
“Getting into the Women’s World Cup once again is very important,” she said. “We are not only trying to make history, but the value of playing at the Women’s World Cup can inspire many young girls to play football. Before the 2015 Women’s World Cup we didn't gain much interest from the fans. After we made an appearance in Canada, many fans began to follow us, and now we have supporters who fly great distances to come and watch our matches.
“I feel that Thailand is climbing the ranks at Asian level, but there are still many things to be done at the global stage. Even at ASEAN [southeast Asia] level, there are good competitors such as Vietnam and Myanmar who we have to be aware of. There are still much that needs to be done. But I feel that the success of our national team can be the cornerstone for additional growth in Thai women's football.”