On-field worries continue for Aussies in Thailand

John Duerden Columnist

By John Duerden, John Duerden is a Roar Expert

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    Australian fans behaved themselves in Bangkok on Tuesday – in the Rajamangala Stadium at least.

    There had been plenty written about what would happen in the mourning period that has followed the death of the much-loved and long-lived King Bhumibol on October 13.

    As all know, it was initially not going to go ahead at all in Thailand but then was allowed with a ‘no cheering’ restriction. The Thai FA backed down on this because – unofficially – there were concerns about what would happen when the Aussies cheered as all knew they would. This is football after all.

    One Thai official told me that it was just not workable and was a potential security threat – how would the Thai fans and police react if they are sitting silently and the visitors are cheering a 30-yard screamer?

    The end of the first month of mourning the day before the game also made things a little easier and more relaxed. In almost all ways, life in the capital was pretty much back to normal with a few more black shirts than usual and black ribbons sported on arms or chests – quite a few Aussie fans had these on too.

    If that timing was a little fortunate then the same could be said of the Socceroos who were second best for much of a really good game to watch. There was a certain amount of complacency among some fans and journalists I talked to – perhaps understandably given the fact that Thailand had lost all four games before Tuesday – but this is a talented team.

    In the past, Thailand have given Asian giants too much respect but that was not the case against Australia, especially pleasing for the home fans after the visitors took an early lead.

    Mile Jedinak

    There was tenacity and energy that provided the foundation for the skill to make a difference and give the Aussie backline some real problems. The second away penalty was questionable and there could not have been many complaints had the War Elephants won 2-1.

    What many don’t realise is that some of these opposition players in Thailand and elsewhere in Asia are often major stars. I stayed at the same hotel as the Thai team and the likes of Chanathip Songkrasin and Kawin Thamsatchanan are mobbed many times a day. And there were hundreds of fans waiting to greet the team bus after the game.

    It seemed as if the Aussies knew they had dodged a bullet. Given that the Thais have lost all four games, it may have felt like two points dropped, but it could have been much worse.

    Perhaps after three straight draws, there is a little pressure creeping in. The road to Russia is looking a little rockier than after the UAE win in September.

    Coach Ange Postecoglou was patient with all the post-match questions from the Bangkok press about how good the Thais were and who were the best players (such press conferences are common all over Asia and it does get pretty parochial) before politely pointing out that he was coach of Australia and the Thai coach was better suited to asking Thai-related questions.

    When he finally did get one about the defensive problems caused by the Thais, Postecoglou got a little defensive himself. He did go on to say that the second half of the stage is much more comfortable with three games of the five remaining at home.

    It is true that Australia are still in a strong position but six points dropped in the last three games reduces the margin for error further down the road especially given how tight the group is.

    On Tuesday though, the game, the emotion and the spectacle were a privilege to witness. The Thais were happy and full of pride and Australia should be too.

    This is the Asia that Australia wanted when it joined: a meaningful cultural experience for all with a vibrant atmosphere and a determined team asking all kinds of questions.

    And this is the Australia that Asia wanted: determined, professional, aggressive but sensitive to, an respectful of, the local culture and sensibilities.

    They may have been second best on the pitch, but off it, players, coaching staff and fans did the country proud.

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    The Crowd Says (13)

    • November 18th 2016 @ 8:45am
      Nemesis said | November 18th 2016 @ 8:45am | ! Report

      John Duerden I find you to be a very rational analyst – not prone to exaggerated pessimism, nor starry-eyed optimism. Also, your knowledge of Asian football is 2nd to none. So, I’m keen to know if you also think Saudi Arabia and Japan have on-field worries as you’ve suggested for Australia? All 6 nations have played each opponent once and there is 1 point separating the top 4 teams. Whilst Australia has played only 2 matches at home, the other three nations in the Top 4 in Group B have played 3 matches at home.

      So, if ‘the margin for error further down the road” is a concern for Australia, I’m sure you’d agree the margin for error must now be a nightmare for Saudi Arabia, Japan and UAE.

      • November 19th 2016 @ 1:05am
        Hubris said | November 19th 2016 @ 1:05am | ! Report

        What a clever and subtle series of questions! What an exquisite trap you have set for the author! What damningly faint praise! What a preposterous waste of time we are!

      • November 19th 2016 @ 1:20am
        Hubris said | November 19th 2016 @ 1:20am | ! Report

        What excellent, sincere and not at all disingenuous questions! What a subtle and cunning trap you have set for Mr Duerden! However will he avoid it?! What a clever poster you are! Hooray for us!

    • Roar Guru

      November 18th 2016 @ 9:03am
      Ben of Phnom Penh said | November 18th 2016 @ 9:03am | ! Report

      The Thai’s seem to run hot and cold. They wilted against Iraq yet dominated Saudi Arabia in Riyadh , a game they deserved all three points in however sport is often an unkind beast. They need to find the consistency to match their endeavour if they are to take the next step; certainly all the ingredients are there including a difficult home fixture.

    • November 18th 2016 @ 10:50am
      Caltex & SBS support Australian Football said | November 18th 2016 @ 10:50am | ! Report

      It was hard to believe that the Thais coming into the match against Australian last Tuesday night; the Thais had not registered a point. Their performance on Tuesday night was as good as the other nations of Japan and Sth Korea. This Thailand team is undoubtedly much better than the ladder indicates.

      • November 18th 2016 @ 11:04am
        Caltex & SBS support Australian Football said | November 18th 2016 @ 11:04am | ! Report

        Note: I do realise Sth Korea are not in our group just comparing football standards.

      • Roar Guru

        November 18th 2016 @ 11:13am
        HardcorePrawn said | November 18th 2016 @ 11:13am | ! Report

        In the buildup to the match the Guardian were saying that the Thais were a stronger team than they looked.
        It should be remembered that this was only their second home game in this stage of qualifying (the previous one they lost to Japan), and while their record away from home isn’t good, they did finish top of their stage 2 group.
        Emotions are high in Thailand at the moment too, which probably did much to galvanise the players prior to the Australia game.
        I reckon they’ll cause a few more upsets in qualifying.

    • November 18th 2016 @ 11:04am
      Lionheart said | November 18th 2016 @ 11:04am | ! Report

      Thanks John, nice article. Let’s hope the A League clubs embrace Asia and employ more Asian imports.

    • November 18th 2016 @ 11:11am
      Caltex & SBS support Australian Football said | November 18th 2016 @ 11:11am | ! Report

      John—with the current ownership of Leicester City FC from Thailand nationals, has this translated into the sudden rise of standard into Thailand football…?

    • November 18th 2016 @ 1:00pm
      aussie dave said | November 18th 2016 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

      Good article John I was at the game it was so hot in the stadium it must have been hell on the field the Thais where pumped up for the game so in the end it was a good draw they will take points off other teams at home that will help the Socceroo. Lets not panic like a lot of the second rate jurnos that we have in oz.

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