Sat, Jul 07, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Thai squad prays for Asian Cup success


Thailand's coach Chanvit Polchovin waits to answer a reporter's question during a news conference yesterday in Bangkok.


Co-host Thailand is aiming to stamp its mark on the Asian Cup and praying at a temple before the team's opening match today could play an important part in their mental preparations.

The team place as much emphasis on meditation and prayer as they do on physical development with coach Chanvit Pholchovin saying a relaxed player is a focused player.

"The principles of Buddhism are an important part of our sports psychology," he said yesterday ahead of Thailand's opening match of the tournament against Iraq.

"If a player is relaxed and does meditation and prays then they are in a positive frame of mind and can focus on their goal, which is to do well. It is very important," he said.

As part of their build up, the team will try and make time to visit a temple ahead of the match.

"Most of the players are Buddhist and believe in the lessons of Buddhism," Chanvit said. "If time allows, we will definitely go to a temple, but if time does not allow that will be okay too because we pray every day."

The Thais have qualified for six Asian Cups but aside from a third place in 1972 have never gone beyond the first round, finishing bottom of their group at the last tournament in Chinah.

Chanvit is confident of success, but knows they have a tricky opening opponent in Iraq.

"The Iraqi team is very strong physically, their players are tall and big," he said. "They also have a strong defense and are dangerous on the aerial attack. But we will do our best. The fans will be very important for us."

Thailand's strength is speed on the counter-attack with Datsakorn Thonglao their main creative force and dead-ball specialist, while exciting striker Teeratep Winothai is capable of springing a surprise.

Inspirational forward Kiatisak "Zico" Senamuang is also an important cog in the Thai machine.

Captain Tawan Sripan said the team are aware of the expectations from the soccer-mad kingdom.

"We are carrying the pride of Thailand," he said. "Our objective is to go as far as possible. The squad we have is a good combination of highly skilled players and young players."

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