Thailand vs Kyrgyzstan

Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium is the venue as Thailand and Kyrgyzstan embark on their Asian Cup campaign with their first-ever encounter.

After four consecutive group-stage eliminations and back-to-back failed attempts to qualify for the final tournament, Thailand finally reached the Asian Cup knockouts in 2019, only to bow out in the first round. The ‘War Elephants’ will hope to replicate that feat this year, though their disappointing pre-tournament form (W1, D2, L3 – 90mins only) doesn’t inspire much confidence. Manager Masatada Ishii couldn’t have imagined a worse start to prepare for the competition than a 5-0 thumping at the hands of Japan in their last warm-up fixture. That result marked Thailand’s seventh successive outing without a clean sheet, casting further doubt on their bid to get their Group F campaign off to a winning start.

On the other hand, Kyrgyzstan’s second Asian Cup appearance in a row commences amid a rough patch for Stefan Tarkovic’s side. Goals on either side of halftime inspired the ‘White Falcons’ to a morale-boosting 2-1 friendly win against Vietnam last time out. Yet, it must not tuck Kyrgyzstan into a false sense of security, considering they had only avoided defeat once in their three previous internationals (D1, L2), netting under 1.5 goals on each occasion. Though this fixture takes place on neutral territory, Kyrgyzstan’s travel sickness is hard to overlook, with Tarkovic’s men going winless in all seven internationals on foreign soil since the start of 2023 (D4, L3). What’s worse, they’ve drawn a blank in four of their last six road trips.

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