Thailand braced for challenge in AFF Women's Championship

Published on: 29 June 2018

The favourites

The Chaba Kaew flew to Palembang, Indonesia on Thursday boasting a strong squad which includes AFC Women's Asian Cup stars Kanjana Sung-Ngoen and Suchawadee Nildhamrong, as they look to defend their 2015 and 2016 ASEAN titles.

Head coach Nuengrutai, whose return to the national top job has seen Thailand qualify for a second successive FIFA Women's World Cup, acknowledged her side are among the favourites, but warned against complacency.

"At the ASEAN level, we have the chance to win often," she said. "Last time we were champions, and this time we want to do the same and defend the championship.

"We are a highly regarded team at the ASEAN level because we can go to the World Cup, but in football anything can happen and it's up to every player to do their best and achieve the goal."

Thailand have prepared for the tournament with 3-0 friendly wins over both Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as a 1-1 draw against three-time finalists Myanmar.

The contenders

The tournament pits together 10 women's national teams from the ASEAN region, ranging from Jordan 2018 semi-finalists and World No 28 Thailand to the likes of Cambodia, who are competing in a competitive international tournament for the first time.

A global power at eighth in the world, Australia will also be represented, albeit by a side comprised largely of under-20 national team players, with the vast majority of the senior national team playing club football abroad.

Despite their notable absentees, the Young Matildas still feature five players with senior international experience, including rising creative star Alex Chidiac and the versatile Larissa Crummer, and they are expected to progress alongside Thailand from Group A.

Leah Blayney, the former Matilda who will coach the side in Indonesia, said: "Many of Australia's elite, emerging young female players will be exposed to international competition against senior national women's football teams from across Southeast Asia."

Photos: AFC, ASEAN Football Federation