Bahrain’s under-23 football team will play Thailand in their opening Group E game of the 2023 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, tomorrow with their head coach saying he believes his team can get off to a good start in the tournament.
The Reds have been slotted in a tough, four-team group with South Korea and Kuwait likely to present even sterner challenges than Thailand against whom the Bahrain team played a friendly game during their training camp in Bangkok last month.
“We’re familiar with the Thailand team after our friendly game last month and already have lots of information about them,” Bahrain head coach Dario Basic told the GDN by phone from Hangzhou.
“And our players look motivated, focused and are raring to give their best. That’s why I believe we can get off to a good start to the tournament.”
The Bahrain squad arrived in Hangzhou last Saturday and held a short training session yesterday. Basic said that another training session would be held today in which tactics for the upcoming game would also be discussed.
“As I said, we played Thailand in a friendly fixture last month, so we have some insight into how they play,” he explained.
“But a friendly game is vastly different from an official encounter in a tournament of the magnitude of the Asian Games.
“In a friendly game, the atmosphere is a lot more relaxed. Also, the nature of an informal fixture allows the coaches of both teams to experiment. For example, I was trying different things with my team and the Thai coach was doing the same.
“But when it’s an official game, especially the opening match of a big tournament, coaches and teams adopt a completely different approach because it’s essential for any side to try and get off to a winning start and secure those crucial first few points.”
Bahrain’s second game will be against Kuwait on Thursday followed by their third and last group game against South Korea next Sunday.
“There’s no doubt about it: we’re in a very tough group,” Basic said.
“But I have full faith in my players and believe that, if they do their best, we will play very good games against some quality opposition.”
Although the multi-sport Asian Games will be officially inaugurated next Saturday, some sports – including football – will kick off a few days earlier.