Thailand axe coach Rajevac after Asian Cup horror show

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jan 07 2019 06:38 PM

Thailand's coach Milovan Rajevac looks on during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Group A football game between Thailand and India at the Al Nahyan Stadium stadium in Abu Dhabi on January 6, 2019. Khaled Desouki, AFP

ABU DHABI -- Thailand have fired coach Milovan Rajevac following a humiliating 4-1 thrashing by India in their opening Asian Cup game at the weekend.

The 65-year-old Serb, who took charge of Thailand in 2017, paid the price after the War Elephants conceded three second-half goals to slump to a shock defeat in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

Thai football chiefs took a dim view of their Group A flop and acted swiftly to remove Rajevac the morning after.

"The result is not what is expected of the Thai national team and that our supporters deserve," Thailand's FA president Somyot Poompanmoung said.

"Like all Thai football fans across the country, I am also disappointed with the result. But as president of the football association, I cannot stand still with this problem."

Former assistant coach Sirisak Yodyardthai will assume control of the team when they face Bahrain and hosts United Arab Emirates, Thai officials added.

Rajevac, who has had spells in charge of Algeria and Qatar, famously steered Ghana to the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup where they were beaten on penalties by Uruguay.

But he was left shell-shocked by Thailand's horror show against underdogs India, whose veteran striker Sunil Chhetri scored twice, overtaking Lionel Messi's 65 international goals in the process.

Lamenting his side's abject display, Rajevac admitted that India were worthy winners.

"They were phenomenal -- they ran more, were more aggressive and wanted it more," he said.

"They absolutely deserved to win. But we underperformed, especially in the second half."

Rajevic has been criticised for his defensive style but the Serb clearly felt otherwise after watching Thailand over-run by a hungry India side.

"It's not always about technical ability and skill on the ball," he said. "We lacked power, strength and aggression. We need to put more pressure on the ball and show more passion."

Thailand, appearing for the first time since co-hosting the Asian Cup in 2007, have now won just one of 21 games at the continent's showcase competition.

Cricket-mad India find themselves as unlikely leaders of Group A thanks to their first Asian Cup win in 55 years.

The Emiratis were held 1-1 by Bahrain in Saturday's curtain-raiser.

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