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National team coach Winnie Schaefer will be hoping his side can put a smile back on the face of a beleaguered country as the World Cup Qualifiers recommence. Back-to-back games against two giants of Asian football – Saudi Arabia and Australia – will go a long way to deciding whether the Thais are heading for the final group qualifying stage or not.
First up is a daunting match in Riyadh tonight (Friday) against the Saudis. The sides drew 0-0 in Bangkok a month ago and most observers agreed that the visitors were the better side on the night. A repeat of that result will suit the Thais particularly as they are missing star striker Teerasil Dangda. Kick off is at 11:30pm tonight local time and will be broadcast on Channel 3.
The main event is on Tuesday evening when Australia (hopefully) visit the capital. The Socceroos have a 100% record in the group, but the Thais can draw some belief from the fact that they ran the Aussies very close in the reverse fixture. In fact the home side needed an 86th-minute goal to win the match. Unfortunately, a 50,000 sell-out at the Rajamangala won’t come to pass as the match has been switched to the National Stadium (Suphachalasai) owing to the ongoing flood situation. The upside is that the smaller Suphachalasai produces an intense atmosphere when full. Kick off is at 6pm on Tuesday and tickets are available through Thai Ticket Major, but be quick!
SEA Games Snorefest
The football competition in the SEA Games got underway this week in Indonesia, not that too many people will have noticed. High ticket prices have led to, quite literally, empty stadiums for most of the group games so far. Thailand’s under-23 side are in a difficult group with reigning champions Malaysia, hosts Indonesia, erstwhile rivals Singapore and minnows Cambodia. The Thais got off to the worst possible start when they lost 2-1 to Malaysia on Wednesday. Thailand play Cambodia on the 11th, Indonesia on the 13th and Singapore on the 17th. All matches will be broadcast on Channel 3, Channel 7 and NBT. Don’t get too excited: we’re not.

Paul Hewitt
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