Thailand held Frank Rijkaard’s Saudi Arabia to a 0-0 draw in Bangkok on Tuesday to preserve their second place in Group D of the Asian zone third-round World Cup qualifying.
The result is likely to increase pressure on the ex-Barcelona coach, who was brought in to secure a World Cup berth but remains without a win in three qualifiers so far.
Thailand coach Winfried Schaefer, whose team had been buoyed by last month’s comfortable 3-0 victory over Oman, admitted that the Saudis enjoyed the better chances at Rajamangala Stadium.
“Both teams played attacking and defending games very well. The Saudi team had several chances more than our team,” said Schaefer, praising his goalkeeper Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool.
“We knew that the Saudis will play with full attacking,” he added. “We made it difficult because we lost control of the game in the midfield easily.”
Thailand missed an early opportunity to go ahead when Muangthong United star Teerasil Dangda’s shot went wide in the 16th minute, setting the scene for a series of squandered chances by each side.
The Saudis fought back with a fast attacking game and almost silenced the home crowd in the 33rd minute when Abdulaziz Al Dawsari’s shot was cleared from the goal-line by Thai defender Niweat Siriwong.
It was a similar story in the second half, with Saudi striker Yasser Al Qahtani putting one shot over the bar while Sinthaweechai saved another.
Thailand failed to capitalise on a free kick in the 72nd minute as Datsakorn Thonglao booted the ball over the bar, while Saudi Arabia were deprived of a late goal because of a foul on the Thai ‘keeper.
Rijkaard insisted that all was not lost for Saudi Arabia, who have home games to come against Thailand and Oman before finishing with a trip to Australia.
“The Saudi team still have a chance because we will play Thailand on our home soil as Oman lost to Australia,” said the Dutchman.
Thailand are now two points ahead of Saudi Arabia in Group D, but trail leaders Australia by five points. They will play Saudi Arabia again on November 11.