Thailand women’s footie team to miss WC finals

Pink Elephants gobbled up by indomitable Lionesses

It’s been more than three years since Thailand‘s women’s football team were given the biggest-ever spanking at a women’s World Cup, a 13-0 hammering by the United States. The humiliation left woman’s football in a perilous state in the kingdom.

Thailand women's footie team to miss WC finals | News by Thaiger
United States’ Rose Lavelle, second right, celebrates after scoring her side’s seventh goal during the match against Thailand’s women’s football team at the Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims, France, June 11, 2019.

New-look Thailand’s women’s soccer team

On Saturday, a new-look Thailand team with a confident head coach and the youngest group of players in its history played Cameroon in a playoff match in New Zealand, hoping to qualify again for a World Cup and move beyond the shadow of that defeat.

It’s pretty hard to accept that a team who were so severely beaten up by the USWNT could get anywhere near the next World Cup, but there they were, within touching distance of the finals.

Hope remained alive until the Chaba Kaew (Pink Elephants) conceded two late second-half goals to lose 2-0 to a very physical Cameroon side. The Thais were eliminated. Despite failing to qualify for this year’s tournament, the squad have high hopes for the future.

Thailand’s women’s soccer team head coach

Head coach Miyo Okamoto is a plain-speaking former Japanese professional, with her approach to tactics and selection. Okamoto is outspoken and has strong views on team funding, development and opportunities.

Thailand women's soccer team
Chaba Kaew head coach Miyo Okamoto is outspoken with strong views on team funding. The former Japanese international player has her approach to tactics and selection.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Okamoto made clear that having taken up her current role with the Thailand women’s soccer team in 2021 she has no hangover from the last World Cup.

Okamoto said…

“We haven’t been the coaching staff for the full four years since the last World Cup. It’s only been two years since we took over from a Thai male coach so we can only talk about the last two years we have been involved in the program.

“More than half of the players are brand new faces since the last World Cup. We’ve made it a really new, young team. Our average age is about 23 which is exceptionally low for our historical national teams.”

Okamoto’s first year in charge was overshadowed by Covid-19. With international matches cancelled, the Thai team spent almost 10 months in training camps.

Last year the team played around 18 matches, beginning with the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in India and including friendly matches against Australia and Taiwan. At a training camp in Japan, the team played informal games against Japanese club sides.

The Chaba Kaew had the chance to qualify directly for the World Cup via the Indian tournament but, according to the Mail Online, an outbreak of Covid in the squad damaged their chances.

Like any coach, Okamoto would prefer more match time and knows there is a lot of work still to be done. Her approach to rejuvenating the squad over the past two years has been from the bottom up.

Okamoto said…

“Over the past two years, we’ve been rebuilding the whole tactical system of play which we think was lacking for the Thai team in the past. We started with the basics and we’ve been working on that for the past two years. It’s very basic tactical stuff.

“It’s unrealistic for us to control the game and dominate other international teams, so we prioritize defending and counter-attacking opportunities.”

A new-old face in Thailand’s women’s soccer team

Irravadee “Dee” Makris, the Alaska-born, Alabama-raised midfielder exemplifies Okamoto’s influence on the squad. The now 31-year-old was a left-field selection who learned of her call-up to the Thailand women’s soccer team via Facebook. Makris now wants to make the best of her late chance by being a member of a World Cup team.

Thailand women's soccer team
Dee Makris was a left-field selection who learned of her call-up to the squad via Facebook.

Makris said…

“We’ve been focusing on trying to get stronger and get used to the physicality we’re going to face by playing against bigger, faster players. Miyo wants us to be positive. That confidence and aggression is definitely something she’s brought to my game and it’s improved me a lot.”

Thailand women's footie team to miss WC finals | News by Thaiger

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Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.