Favourites Thailand won't be distracted
Thai coach Choketawee expects hard opener for his favourites
LAOS v THAILAND
(Tonight, 8.30pm, Bishan Stadium)
They are widely regarded as the favourites to win the football gold medal at the 2015 South-east Asia (SEA) Games.
And defending champions Thailand will be expected to deliver a statement of intent tonight when they kick off their Group B campaign against Laos at the Bishan Stadium.
Boasting a star-studded Under-23 squad featuring the likes of Chanathip Songkrasin, Sarach Yooyen and Peerapat Notechaiya, coach Choketawee Promrut has warned his men they have no room for complacency.
"Of course, the aim is to win the gold medal, but all the players know we have to take things step by step," he told The New Paper yesterday, after a training session at Nanyang Polytechnic.
"We must focus on our first game against Laos as there's no point looking too far ahead.
"Laos play very fast football and tackle hard, so we must be careful and I think we'll have to work very hard to get the win."
Although sterner tests await in the coming days against Malaysia and Vietnam, who are expected to be the Thais' main contenders for a top-two finish in the group, Choketawee claims he will resist the urge to save his key players for those crucial encounters.
The ex-Thailand international said: "We will play our strongest team against Laos. The game is very important and our recovery will also be crucial.
"In a tournament like this, rotating players will be necessary, but the good thing for us is that we have 20 players who all have quality."
One man expected to play a big role for the junior War Elephants is right back Narubadin Weerawatnodom, who is barely out of his teens but has already won the SEA Games and AFF Suzuki Cup in the past two years.
The Buriram United defender insists he will not lack motivation as he aims for another gold medal at the Games.
"It's wrong if a player think he's already achieved a lot just because he has won these titles," he told TNP.
"In football, you cannot afford to stop for a moment. There will always be new teams or new players aiming to be better than you and, personally, I must always think about the next step.
"It will be difficult for us because every team will be gunning for us, especially since we've won two titles in the past two years.
"We must not think it will be easy and, in fact, even giving 100 per cent might not be enough - we have to give 200 per cent."
When asked who he thought would be Thailand's main challengers, Narubadin singled out hosts the Young Lions, but refused to go as far as to predict they would be meeting each other in the final.
"I think Singapore will have a good chance," Narubadin said.
"They have home advantage and will be very familiar and comfortable with the environment.
"All we want to do right now is concentrate on each game that comes.
"We'll only start thinking about the gold medal if and when we're in the final."