All eyes on Rajevac in Tashkent
War Elephants take on Uzbekistan tonight
When the Thailand v Uzbekistan friendly kick offs tonight in Tashkent, the War Elephants will look different in more ways than one.
To start with, the man in charge of their dugout and most of the men carrying out his orders on the field will be different.
Serbia’s Milovan Rajevac will be at the helm of the national team for the first time in the friendly from which a number of national team regulars will be missing.
Rajevac decided to leave nine “tired” SCG Muang Thong United stars out of the 22-member Thai squad for the Uzbekistan match.
Apart from Rajevac, veteran striker Teerathep Winothai, who is expected to make a national team comeback tonight after a long lapse, will also be under the spotlight.
He is likely to play up front in partnership with Muang Thong’s latest signing Sirod Chatthong, a combination which has never been tried before.
Rajevac, who has been credited for guiding Ghana to the 2010 World Cup quarter-finals, will be anxious to get a good result to impress his Thai employers.
Football Association of Thailand (FAT) president Somyot Poompunmuang last week expressed optimism that the national team will produce good results in their two forthcoming assignments under Rajevac.
“I am hoping all the players will learn a great deal from Rajevac and that the team will produce good results against Uzbekistan and the UAE,” said Somyot.
After the friendly with Uzbekistan, which will be televised live by Thai Rath TV at 10pm (Thai time), Thailand will take on the United Arab Emirates in a 2018 World Cup qualifier at Rajamangala National Stadium in Bangkok.
Rajevac is also keen to change the way the War Elephants play by making them concentrate more on ball possession and counter-attacks.
Thailand skipper and veteran goalkeeper Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool said: “We have a new coach and a new coaching staff, so we have to start everything from the beginning. We have to learn new things.
“As the captain and goalkeeper, it won’t make any big difference for me because I have to be at my best against any team I face.
“For the game with Uzbekistan, it will be a quality friendly. I think it is a good opportunity for us to play with a strong team like Uzbekistan.”
Meanwhile, last year’s Thai League 1 runners-up Bangkok United have signed a contract with former Iran midfielder Mehrdad Pooladi.
Yesterday was the first day for the year’s second transfer window, which will stay open for a month.
Pooladi, 30, has played for many teams in Iran and the Middle East and his last team before moving to Bangkok United was Al Shahania in Qatar.
Leaders Muang Thong United, who have already signed Heberty Fernandes, Leandro Assumpcao, Prakit Deeprom and Sirod, have acquired Totsawat Limwannasatien from Chiang Rai United.
Police Tero have appointed former Manchester United youth team player Mike Mulvey as their new head coach, replacing Uthai Boonmao who was sacked recently.
Mulvey, 54, has coached A-League teams Melbourne Victory, Gold Coast United and Brisbane Roar.