Making their debut on the world stage of women’s football at Canada 2015, Thailand were given anything but an easy time with their group stage assignments. Going up against an admirable African side in Côte d’Ivoire, not to mention former world champions Norway and Germany, Group B of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ was always going to be an uphill battle for the south-east Asian newcomers.
Despite the difficult competition they faced during their time in Canada, however, Thailand nearly found a way into the Round of 16 as one of the top third-place teams. After a humbling welcome to the Women’s World Cup from Norway, the War Elephants eked out a 3-2 victory against Côte d’Ivoire in one of the most entertaining matches of the entire group stage and those three points nearly saw Nuengrutai Srathongvian’s side into the knockout phase of the tournament.
And even an impressive showing from Thailand against two-time champions Germany in their third match, the Europeans ran out 4-0 winners, gave the team ranked 29th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking many reasons to be optimistic despite their early exit. Goalkeeper Waraporn Boonsing, who registered 12 saves on the day against Germany, stood out in particular and the 25-year old spoke to FIFA.com on the eve of Thailand’s departure to describe her feelings after her first Women’s World Cup came to an end.
“It was our first time here at the World Cup finals and we feel that we learned quite a lot from facing great teams such as Norway and Germany,” Boonsing said. “It was a great experience for our team in a learning environment.
“I was proud of my performances, particularly against Germany and Côte d’Ivoire. I started to feel comfortable here, and I will hope to only get better.”
Boonsing’s coach echoed similar statements in his post-game press conference. “Our goalkeeper played well today,” said Srathongvian. “She’s only 25, so she has a long way to go in terms of experience, but I think she will get better. She has to continue to develop and learn how to lead her defence.”
First class Canadian experience
In addition to the time spent on the field during the Women’s World Cup, Boonsing also had kind words for the volunteers and staff working hard behind the scenes at Canada 2015 to make Thailand’s time here as memorable as possible.
“This was my first time, so I didn’t really know what to expect,” she explained. “But the management of the whole competition was really fascinating. It was really impressive the way we were welcomed everywhere we went, particularly at the hotels and the training sites. Everyone was so nice!
“When we travelled from Ottawa to Winnipeg, we had the entire plane to ourselves, which was really nice and something I haven’t experienced before.”
And now, with the War Elephants’ trip to Canada concluded, the focus back home in Thailand will return to programmes and initiatives such as the Live Your Goals campaign which is encouraging more girls and young women to play the beautiful game, which will only help to improve an already impressive Thai team on the world stage.
“We are going to use this experience to improve ourselves and improve the team,” Boonsing said. “I hope we will be a good inspiration for all the girls playing football back in Thailand."
With the performances and improvements seen in Canada, there is no reason to believe that Boonsing and Co will not be able to inspire plenty of girls to get into football, with France 2019 already looming on the distant horizon.