Sunday, August 07, 2005

Withe on Indonesian and Thai prospects

There is nothing more Peter Withe would like than to see than Thailand and Indonesia meet in the football final at the SEA Games in Manila in December. Withe, who spent five successful years coaching Thailand and who is now in charge of the Indonesian squad, was in Bangkok last week to see the Thai team in action for the Premier League Asia Trophy and against Real Madrid.

You could call it a "spying mission" by the former England and Aston Villa striker, but for Withe it was much more than that as he still has a great affinity with Thailand, Tor Chittinand of the Bangkok Post observed.

Withe said he was quite impressed by the Thai team after watching them last week. "I saw them in the Tiger Cup and they had a terrible result, being knocked out in the first round. I didn't think they played that badly, then but they were in a tough group with Burma and Malaysia ... [however] they have improved a lot since," he said.

The former Thailand coach said the Thai players have benefited from playing high profile teams from Europe. "It has to be good for them to play teams like Real Madrid, Everton and Bolton. Premiership teams come to Thailand on a regular basis." He said Thailand was lucky in this respect as his Indonesian team rarely gets the chance to play against top flight international teams.

He admitted one of the problems in Indonesia was getting the team together. "The Indonesian league doesn't end until October which means I will only have about six weeks to prepare the squad for the SEA Games," he said.

Withe also does a lot of travel within Indonesia to watch promising players, a lot of whom are very inexperienced. "In the Indonesian League clubs are allowed five foreign players. That limits the opportunities for promising Indonesian players," he said.

Despite these problems Withe is still optimistic about Indonesia's chances in the SEA Games. "We have some good players and if we get enough time together they can do well."

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