Thais land in Dubai, pass Covid-19 test ahead of Doha 2022 qualifiers
Raring to go: Thailand players at Suvarnabhumi airport.
The War Elephants on Saturday landed in Dubai hoping to make up the lost ground before their remaining three Group G matches of the second Asian qualifying stage for the 2022 Fifa World Cup next month.
Head coach Akira Nishino and 39 players underwent a swab test upon arrival in Dubai were all declared free of the coronavirus. Midfielders Chanathip Songkrasin and Thanawat Suengchitthawon will join the squad later.
The team’s training for the qualifying event in Dubai was suspended on May 8 when two players and four members of the national team staff were infected with the coronavirus.
Nishino lamented the lack of training his men have had because of the self-isolation his players had to observe at their training base in Samut Prakan.
The Japanese said he had decided to bring all 41 shortlisted players to Dubai to give everyone a fair chance of making the final squad.
“We went into the training camp on May 3 and saw the potential of some players — they were all very keen to raise their game,” said Nishino.
“Then we had the Covid-19 infections in the camp and everyone had to self-isolate for 14 days, suspending all the team activities.
“We are now here and we have to assess everyone in a fair manner, build up a new team.”
Nishino also regretted that Theerathon Bunmathan had pulled out of the team but added that “it is an opportunity for the others to make their case for selection.”
Thailand are in third place in Group G of the second Asian qualifying stage for Doha 2022 with eight points from five matches. Vietnam lead the pool with 11 points, followed by Malaysia on nine.
The UAE are in fourth spot with six points but have a game in hand, while Indonesia are spotted at the foot of the table without any point to their credit.
The War Elephants will play two warm-up matches against Oman on May 25 and Tajikistan on May 29.
They will then play their Group G matches against Indonesia on June 3, the UAE on June 7 and Malaysia on June 15.