Showing posts with label Thailand. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Thailand. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The King's Cup 2013 preview

Hidden away in the football calendar, competing for attention with the African Cup Of Nations, the King's Cup returns this week in Thailand. Not usually seen as a hotbed of football, this long-running tournament returns for it's 42nd edition on Wednesday.

This year sees a similarly Nordic-Asian line-up as 2012, with Finland, Sweden and North Korea lining up against the hosts (2012 saw a Danish league XI, Norway and South Korea). The format has changed however - returning to the knockout format, away from last year's round robin. The opening match sees Sweden take on North Korea (kick off at 9am UK time), followed by Thailand against Finland (12 noon in the UK).

The tournament is held to honour his Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and will be held at the 700th Anniversary Stadium in Chiang Mai.

The 700th Anniversary Stadium, looks recently renovated

Finland have taken a squad of players mostly based in the Nordic leagues, making do with the fact that the tournament doesn't fall in the FIFA international calendar (however FIFA have ratified the fixtures). Some old faces return to the squad, including recent HJK additions Teemu Tainio and Mikael Forssell. Perhaps the biggest surprise yet was announced on Tuesday night, when coach Mixu Paatelainen revealed that young Fulham stopper Jesse Joronen would start against the hosts.

Mikael returns to the blue and white

Something for fans of the obscure - the opening match is also billed as a match for the Unofficial World Championship. The tournament originated from the first international football fixtures between England and Scotland back in 1872, and has been calculated all the way to the current day, where North Korea are the current holders. A win for Sweden would bring the title back to Europe, where it hasn't been held since Argentina beat Spain in 2010. By definition, if Finland were to win both of their matches, against Thailand and the winners of the other game, they would be (Unofficial) World Champions! Finland's last effort at the title was in 2008, where they lost 2-1 to Greece.

Hughie, the mascot for the UFWC

For more information on the UFWC, visit their website here.

Thailand's coach Winfried Schäfer certainly has a tournament pedigree, he won the Cup of Nations with Cameroon in 2002, and lost narrowly in the final of the Confederations Cup in 2003 (overshadowed by the death of Marc-Vivien Foe). Sweden are hamstrung by the same squad limitations as Finland, with only four players with more than ten caps, and missing Ibrahimovic. North Korea surprised some in the 2010 World Cup by giving Brazil a decent game, and won't be pushovers either.

 Thailand (in yellow) take on South Korea in 2012

This promises to be a pleasant break in the pre-season plans for Finland, and should give a different challenge for Mixu's players. He claims the advantage over Thailand on the basis of the larger players, but we'll see if size really matters...

Follow Finland's attempts to become World Champions with the Escape To Suomi Twitter site.