Thailand's Zico unafraid of Japan and Australia in AFC WCQ final round
Thailand will face Asian giants Australia and Japan in the final round of qualification for the 2018 World Cup.
The War Elephants were placed in Group B at the draw held in Malaysia on Tuesday, with the two heavyweights, as well as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Iraq.
Kiatisuk Senamuang's men kick-off their first final round campaign since 2002 on Sept. 1 at Saudi Arabia before hosting four-time Asian champions Japan five days later.
"We always knew it was going to be a tough draw for us," Withaya Laohakul, the technical director of the Football Association of Thailand, told ESPN FC. "This is the final round of qualification and we have to expect this."
Withaya was delighted however, to be Southeast Asia's sole representative in the final dozen of Asian nations.
"We are proud to be representing the region in the final round and we will work hard to ensure that we make Southeast Asia proud."
Thai head coach Kiatisuk 'Zico' Senamuang has been building a talented team, but taking on the current and previous Asian champions will show how far Thailand have come.
"We will face Japan and Australia with confidence. At home, the fans will come out to support us and we will do our best to get the best results. We are excited about the challenge."
The Thais played the Socceroos in the group stages of the 2007 AFC Asian Cup in Bangkok. They put a brave fight until the last 10 minutes when they conceded three times in the wake of a Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell onslaught to lose 4-0.
In the same tournament, Thailand drew 1-1 with eventual champions Iraq and defeated Oman 2-0, demonstrating the power of their home support.
In Group A, South Korea will renew their rivalry with Iran, while the likes of Uzbekistan, China, Qatar and Syria will be hoping to upset the odds.