Thailand’s future stars are currently competing at the AFF U19 championships in Indonesia. Today, we look at five players who could make the difference for the young War Elephants at the tournament, and turn out for the senior team in the years to come.
The squad is made up of players born between 2003 and 2004, and coached by Salva Valero. These players recently featured in the AFF U23 Championships in Cambodia, where they made it to the finals before eventually losing to a Vietnamese U21 side. As a result, they will go to this tournament as favorites to become regional champions once again. Here are the players who could be crucial in helping them achieve their goals.
Center Back, Age 18, Lamphun Warriors FC (on loan from BG Pathum United)
Probably the most notable member of the current Thailand squad, Chanapach Buaphan already has plenty of experience at international level with the U23 team. He traveled with the squad for the AFC qualifiers in Mongolia, before being a key part of their recent SEA Games campaign, where he helped the side win the Silver medal.
Chanapach plays for the 2020-21 Thai League champions BG Pathum United but spent last season on loan at the Rabbits’ feeder club Rajpracha FC in Thai League 2, where he made 16 appearances. This season he is stepping up to T1 with a loan to newly promoted Lamphun Warriors, though may face a tough fight for a starting berth.
Standing at 195cm, his commanding physical presence is a rare and valuable trait among Thai defenders.
Striker, Age 19, Union Adarve FC (on loan from Uthai Thani FC)
Nattakit Butsing found his name on the front of almost every national sports newspaper late last year, when he was selected to join FC Bayern’s ‘World Squad,’ made up of talents scouted by the German giants from across the planet. Nattakit went on to score three goals in three games with the side at a friendly tournament in Mexico.
After the tournament, Nattakit went on trial with Spanish side Getafe, before signing for fourth-tier Union Adarve, where he joined countryman Channarong Promsrikaew. However, he continued to represent Bayern’s world squad in international friendlies during that time.
The central striker is expected to lead the line for Thailand at this tournament, and possesses a deadly killer instinct in front of goal, which the team has previously been missing. It’s unclear what the future holds for Nattakit, who is currently contracted to his hometown club Uthai Thani in T2, but this tournament could be a huge chance for the striker to build on his rapidly growing reputation.
Defender, Age 17, Chonburi FC
Capable of playing anywhere across the back line or as a defensive midfielder, Kasidit could be on the verge of a breakout tournament after a strong domestic campaign. Despite having just turned 17 at the start of the campaign, he clocked over 1000 minutes on the field for Uthai Thani in T3 and helped them earn promotion.
While he may not be the most physically imposing, Kasidit is impressive on the ball and shows excellent defensive awareness. His game has improved under the guidance of Chonburi legend Therdsak Chaiman. Now back at his parent club, he will have to compete with many other promising young defenders for a starting berth; a strong showing in Indonesia could be key in his push for playing time.
Attacking Midfielder, Age 18, Assumption United (contracted to Muangthong United)
An exciting talent with great technique and an exquisite eye for a pass, Kakana could be the key to unlocking defenses at the AFF U19 tournament. He has been deployed across midfield for the young War Elephants but is most potent in an attacking midfield role, or as a playmaker with the license to get forward.
Kakana made 15 appearances in Thai League 3 for Assumption United, finding the net on 5 occasions. After the tournament, he is set to go on trial at Atletico Madrid along with fellow Muangthong United and Assumption teammate Teekawin Chansri, who is also a member of the squad.
Defensive Midfielder, Age 17, Port FC
Despite being one of the youngest players in the squad, Sittha Boonla is likely to be a key player for the young War Elephants at the AFF U19 Championship. Beloved by coach Salva for his close control in tight spaces, the defensive midfielder’s presence and composure are crucial to Thailand’s possession-based game.
After impressing in Thai League 3 with Assumption United during the first half of last season, Sittha earned a move to Port FC. He was also called up to Thailand’s U23 squad for the Asian Cup Qualifying campaign in Mongolia. If his unique set of talents can be properly nurtured, Sittha could become a key player for Thailand in the years to come.