Thailand coach upbeat about his team’s chances

Thailand coach Bryan Robson is upbeat about his men’s chances when they begin their Asian Games campaign against Pakistan tomorrow.

The Thai team arrived in Guangzhou, China yesterday with all but one of their 20 players. Ekachai Sumre was called up to replace Kraikitti Inutane this week and is awaiting approval from the organising committee to join the squad.

Robson said he was excited to be at a tournament like the Asian Games and that he hoped Thailand would beat Pakistan.

“I hope that the Thai team will start the tournament with a win against Pakistan, although I know very little about them,” said the former Manchester United star.

“The only thing I know about Pakistan is their coach, Graham Roberts, my former England colleague.”

Roberts made six appearances for England while Robson played for the national team 90 times.

The other two teams in Group F are Oman and Maldives and Robson admitted he knew something about Oman but nothing about Maldives.

Nataporn Phanrit is Robson’s only injured player and the defender will be rested against Pakistan. Sujarit Jantakon or Suttinun Phukhom will take his place.

Manager Anucha Nakasai said: “I’d like the team to win all three first round matches to top our group to avoid a strong team in the second round. Our aim is to reach the semi-finals and if possible win our first-ever Asian Games medal in football.”

It is Roberts’ first game in charge for Pakistan and the ex-Spurs and Chelsea defender said he is keen to take on his old England colleague.

“It’s a bit of an experience for me but I’m looking forward to it,” Roberts told the BBC.

“Against Robbo _ well, we’ll both be wearing shinpads on the halfway line.”

Roberts admits he knew nothing about his team when he agreed to take the job last month, and enlisted the help of former Pakistan captain Zesh Rehman, who is currently playing for League Two side Bradford City.

“At the moment they’re saying that they turn up and it’s lackadaisical. I’ve spoken to five or six of them and the players I’ve checked out are all keen and they want to play,” he said.

The Thailand v Pakistan match will be televised live on NBT (Channel 11) at 6pm. BANGKOK POST/AFP