Coach Akira Nishino: ‘We are not afraid of any opponent’

Author: Amelia
Date: 17/01/2020

During the training session on January 16, coach Akira Nishino showed his determination and not afraid of Saudi Arabia U23 or any opponent.

Thailand coach Akira Nishino has told the War Elephants to focus on their own game rather than guessing Saudi Arabia's ploys for Saturday's AFC U23 Championship quarter-finals.

The two sides will square off at Thammasat Stadium at 5.15pm.

Later on the same evening, Australia will take on Syria at Bangkok's Rajamangala National Stadium.

Nishino made his men watch tapes of Saudi Arabia's recent games on Thursday.

"This looks like a different Saudi team than the one we played before the tournament," said the Japanese coach, referring to Thailand's 1-0 loss to the Middle Eastern giants in a warm-up game.

"Now that the event is underway, they [Saudis] are playing much faster football.

"From what I have seen, the Saudis played their first match against Japan with three backs, but yesterday [Wednesday] they opted for four men at the back. They keep changing their tactics.

"We have had the players watch the Saudi matches but they have been told not to focus much on the opponents' game. We only need to focus on ourselves, make the best use of our own strengths.

"I have also been telling the players to play without any fear."

Nishino, who steered his native Japan to the last 16 round of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, added that the mood in the Thai camp was "very positive".

"Now that we're in quarter-finals, the players look very confident. They are keen to continue the good run and hope that the Thai football fans will come and cheer them again," added the veteran coach.

"The good thing is that we don't have any injured players and we still have time to pick the starting line-up."

Saudi Arabia coach Saad Alshehri, meanwhile, warned his men that they have yet to achieve their target for the tournament.

Although delighted to have guided Saudi Arabia through to the last eight, Alshehri is adamant that there is more work to be done if the West Asians are to realise their ambition of qualifying for this year's Olympics.

"I am very grateful that we have qualified for the next round," said the Saudi coach.

"We are taking it step by step, but the players are definitely improving as a team and that is something which is very important for us."

Alshehri is more than aware of the size of the challenge they face by taking on the host nation in the knockout stage.

"Thailand have played exceptionally well and they will have the advantage of home support, something which will make it more difficult for us," he said.

"We will, though, be doing our utmost to qualify for the semi-finals."

Thailand U23 striker Supachai Chaided, who was injured during the game with Australia and only came on as a substitute in the match with Iraq, has confirmed he is ready to play against Saudi Arabia.

"I have fully recovered and am ready to help the team. The quarter-final with Saudi Arabia is an important game in which we'll need a big team effort."