Thailand’s World Cup hopes hit by Covid-19 cases at training camp

Thailand’s 2022 World Cup qualification hopes have been dealt a huge blow as two players and four staff members have tested positive for Covid-19.

Earlier this week, the War Elephants began training for the three remaining World Cup qualifiers to take place in the United Arab Emirates next month. However, confirmation that cases of the virus have been detected has halted the training camp and forced the players into isolation.

Standard practice in Thailand is for people to isolate for 14 days if they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive. In order to meet entry requirements to the UAE, the players and staff have received vaccinations, so this condition could be relaxed if the group remains in a bubble. Current travel plans are for the squad to fly out to the UAE on May 21.

Akira Nishino’s side face Indonesia on June 3rd and the UAE on June 7th before concluding their Group G campaign with a clash against Malaysia on June 15th. Following the first five matches, Thailand sit third – three points behind leaders Vietnam – in a closely contested group from which only the group winners automatically progress to the final stage of qualifying.

Thailand’s best hope may be to finish as one of the four best runners-up across the AFC region, but they are likely to need to take at least seven points from these three matches to succeed.

However, their prospects look slimmer as a result of the unfortunate news that Thailand’s recent surge on Covid cases has reached the national team. Following a year in which the country was relatively unscathed by the pandemic, the number of new cases has been around the 2,000 mark almost every day for several weeks.

Qualification for the final group stage on the road to Qatar 2022 was already looking tough following inconsistent form in the first five fixtures. It now looks a more daunting challenge as the squad gets set for a period of working with their coaches from home. 

Paul Murphy

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