Thailand, its heavenly beaches, its massages, its Thai path, but also football. Indeed, it must be recognized, football is not the first symbol associated with the collective imagination about Thailand. However, this could change more or less in the long run as the enthusiasm for football grows in the land of smiles. Today, focus on a team (for now) that is still confidential but deserves to be known, the Thai soccer team.
Professional and international debut
Well, contrary to what some may think, the Thai national football team is not exactly a newcomer to the international scene. It has been affiliated with the Thailand Football Federation and FIFA since 1925. But despite official recognition by international football organizations, a long journey across the desert follows. It will be necessary to wait until 1956 for the Thais to play their first international match (against South Vietnam) which will end in a defeat by the score of 3 goals to 1. After that, the news at international level remains somewhat confidential again for almost 20 years. year. A period in which Thailand will set two more records in 2 matches. The first is the heaviest defeat in its history (9 goals for 0) in Melbourne, Australia, on November 26, 1956, against Great Britain at the 1956 Olympics. The second, on the other hand, is the biggest win (10 goals for 0). ) in Bangkok, to Brunei, May 24, 1971. Thailand so no, it’s not just Muay Thai!
The year 1972 marked the beginning of a slow but real rise for the Thai football team. For the first time in its history, it participates in the final stage of the Asian Cup, of which it is also the host country that year. She climbed to the semifinals, but had to settle for third place after her elimination in the semifinals against South Korea. Then it was during the Tiger Cup that Thailand began to seriously shine on the Asian continent. She won it for the first time in 1996 and then achieved good results with a semi-final in 1998, two finals in 2000 and 2008. Then success came in the Tiger Cup final with wins in 2014 and 2016. With a total of 5 won Tiger Cups, Thailand is the most successful country in the competition. It is also the one with the most finals played, with a total of 8 of the 11 editions played. Unfortunately, Thailand does not shine in the Asian Cup, despite 5 qualifications in a row for the final phase. With first-round eliminations in 2000 and 2004, as well as second-round eliminations in 2006, Thailand has failed to join the very closed circle of major Asian football nations like Japan, South Korea or Iran.
Thailand at the World Cup
It’s time to approach the queen of competitions, it is, of course, the World Cup, whose next edition is fast approaching. In other words, a challenge of historic magnitude for Thailand, which has never quite managed to shine at this level. She manages to get through to the final phase of the preliminary rounds of the 1998 World Cup (in France) and is eliminated in the first round. It was also on this occasion that in September 1998 Thailand reached the best place in its history in the FIFA world ranking with a 43ᵉ place. But after that it will be more difficult and they will never manage to reach the final stage of a World Cup which always stops during the qualifying stages. So what can they hope for this edition of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar? During the qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in the Asia zone, places are expensive (only 5 or 6 qualifiers for a total of 46 teams). In fact, this year there are only 4 or 5 qualifying places available with Qatar automatically qualifying as the host country. Unfortunately for the “War Elephants” they don’t go on an adventure in Qatar. The remaining places (pending the end of the play-offs) go to Iran (second) and South Korea (third), respectively. Thailand, led by its star Supachok Sarachat, finished 4ᵉ of its group in the second round with just one win against the United Arab Emirates. All in a group including Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia, a priori not insurmountable without being simple. A disappointment for sure, but not a disappointment. The reality on the ground has spoken and Thailand will again not play in the final stages of the World Cup. But that might just be the tip of the iceberg. Because in reality Thai football is progressing step by step, especially in terms of infrastructure, but also on the side of the enthusiasm of the population. Football almost didn’t exist in Thailand a little over two decades ago, it’s everywhere now, in stadiums, on televisions and at bookmakers. It cannot be ruled out that the work of the various players in Thai football will eventually bear fruit in a few years’ time. Because it’s primarily a long-term job, and the youngsters of Thai football taking their first steps in brand-new football academies may well be the stars of a 2026 or 2030 World Cup.