SEPANG: Thailand football coach Woorawoot Srimaka is no stranger to Malaysian football.
The 45-year-old former national striker knows all about the game here and is confident that Thailand can return home with the gold medal.
As a player, Woorawoot scored seven goals in the 9-0 rout of Malaysia’s 2000 Olympic team in a friendly in Bangkok in 1998.
“Yes, I know Malaysian football. The rivalry has always been there and we’re here to win the gold again,” said Woorawoot, who played for Kelantan in the Premier League 13 years ago.
He said that although the Thai team were assembled just a week ago, they are just as confident as Malaysia about winning the mother of all gold medals.
“Malaysia and Thailand are very close and know each other well. We beat them in the AFC Under-23 qualifiers last month (3-0) but that was a different Malaysian team. I’m sure Malaysia will have a stronger side for the SEA Games.
“Our first mission is to get out of the group stage, but it will be close and we respect all our opponents,” said Woorawoot, who won two SEA Games gold medals as a player – at Jakarta 1997 and Brunei 1999.
Thailand have won six gold medals in the men’s Under-23 competition since the KL SEA Games in 2001 and will start as favourites again. They are in Group B with Indonesia, Cambodia, Philippines, Vietnam and Timor Leste while Group A comprises Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Myanmar and Laos.
Thailand play Indonesia in their opening match at the Shah Alam Stadium on Tuesday.