The “Chaba Kaew” were just minutes from one of the biggest upset wins in football history when Alanna Kennedy’s 91st minute header made it 2-2 and took the game to extra-time.
With Wilaiporn Boothduang sent off in the 87th minute, the Thais fended off Australia’s attacks in extra-time before Mackenzie Arnold’s goalkeeping heroics broke Thailand’s hearts as the Matildas won 3-1 in the shoot-out.
Australia were heavy favourites against the Thais going into the match, having hammered the Chaba Kaew 5-0 in a warm-up game in Perth ahead of the Asian championship.
In the other semi-final, Japan beat China 3-1.
Japan will meet Australia in the championship match tomorrow (Apr 20) when Thailand take on China in the third-place play-off.
“I’m very, very proud of my players today. Everybody played to their responsibilities and up to our tactics and game plan,” said Thailand coach Nuengrutai Srathongvian.
“It’s a pity that we lost, but it’s a big challenge every time we play a top team. As I’ve said many times, we always bring our experiences from the past and use them for the next game.
“This game shows we have improved, even though we still have some flaws, but I’m very proud of our players, because everybody played to their fullest.”
Thailand’s performance against the Matildas gave an indication of their ability to compete with the world’s best, which fills Nuengrutai with optimism ahead of the gruelling 2019 Women’s World Cup in France.
“It’s going to be really interesting going to the World Cup next year,” she said.
“Everything depends on our preparation for the games next year. For this tournament, we had good preparation, but we’ll keep trying to improve and take our game to the next level.
“It’s going to be really interesting to study and prepare for the best teams in the world, and we can’t wait for the tournament next year.”
In Thailand’s first World Cup appearance at the 2015 finals in Canada, they suffered two 4-0 defeats against Germany and Norway and beat Ivory Coast 3-2.
At the King Abdullah II Stadium in Amman on Tuesday, Australia took the lead when Chaba Kaew defender Kanchanaporn Saenkhun unfortunately headed an Emily Gielnik cross into her own net in the 17th minute.
Thailand immediately equalised when Kanjana Sung-Ngoen got in behind Australia’s high defensive line before lobbing the ball in the direction of Arnold, who made a dreadful error and fumbled the ball across the goal-line.
Thailand sensationally took a 2-1 lead in the 64th minute when Rattikan Thongsombut slammed a brilliant 15-metre shot into the top corner after errors from both Arnold and Kennedy.
Kennedy gave the Matildas a lifeline in the first minute of injury time, when she rose to head home Elise Kellond-Knight’s pin-point corner and make it 2-2.
“We played wholeheartedly, and played to our fullest capabilities,” said Kanjana.
“Coming into the game, we already knew that [Australia] were stronger and higher-ranked than our team, so we tried our best, and I am proud of our game today.
“We always encourage each other. Coming to this stage of the tournament we’ve got nothing to lose, so there’s nothing to think about, we just keep trying and trying for our teammates.”
The team have been assured of at least B20 million in bonuses for earning a World Cup berth.
Read original story here.