Japanese World Cup
Thailand were given a football lesson in Bangkok as Japan eased to a 2-0 victory in their 2018 AFC World Cup qualifier on Tuesday night.
Goals in each half from Genki Haraguchi and Takuma Asano gave the visitors the three points, but it could have been much more if not for the brilliance of Thai keeper Kawin Thamsatchanan.
The Japanese will be relieved after losing their Group B opener to the UAE last week, while it is an uphill struggle for the Thais after a second straight loss.
Here are five things we learned in the rain at Rajamangala Stadium:
1. Reality bites
After last week's narrow defeat in Saudi Arabia, it might have been tempting to believe that Thailand were ready to give the continent's best a run for their money. The Thais had been extremely unlucky to lose in Riyadh, suggesting that they might be ready to challenge the Japanese.
But the War Elephants were given the runaround in the first 20 minutes, in particular, as Japan showed their class. The movement of Shinji Kagawa, Keisuke Honda and Asano, had the hosts chasing shadows. It was no surprise when Genki Haraguchi headed in the opener from Hiroki Sakai's cross.
The Japanese demonstrated the difference between a team with individuals, playing at the highest level in Europe, and a team who play their football in Thailand only. There is still some way to go until the Thais can reach this level.Kawin Thamsatchanan pulled off a string of superb saves to deny the Japanese strikers.
2. Another slow start in Bangkok
The Thais are becoming habitual slow starters when they play at Rajamangala Stadium. It is easy to use forget that Iraq took the War Elephants apart for the first hour last year before a late rally earned a 2-2 draw for the hosts in the AFC second round.
In the three home qualifiers in 2015, just one of the team's seven goals came in the first 45 minutes. Thailand head coach Kiatisuk Senamuang must look at ways to put pressure on opponents from the start. Early dominance can generate confidence and get the crowd onside.
However, recent performances suggest that Thailand sometimes require the loss of goals to spark a response. A faster start could lift the home side while putting doubt into opponents. Against Japan, however, the Thais never really got going.
3. Kawin's got talent
Of Thailand's outfield eleven, it would be hard to make an argument that any of them would be good enough to make the Japan squad. But in the Thai goal, Kawin once again demonstrated why he is rated by many as the top keeper in Southeast Asia.
The Muang Thong United man made several key saves to keep his side in the game. He almost had his own personal duel with Honda, coming out on top time and again. One save from an excellent Honda header late in the first half was particularly impressive.
It might be unfair to make a direct comparison with Shusaku Nishikawa in the Japan goal, his opposite number having almost nothing to do apart from charge down Teerasil Dangda's effort when Thailand had their one clear chance. However, over several years, Kawin has shown that he has the potential to play at a higher level. Could this stage give him the opportunity?Thailand right-back Tristan Do, second from left, was one of the better performers in the 2-0 loss to Japan.
4. Thailand lack depth
The loss of Sanrawat Dechmitr and Adisak Kraisorn to injury, and Sarach Yooyen to suspension, hit the Thais hard and exposed the lack of depth in the squad. Charyl Chappuis was pressed into service in central midfield against Japan, despite limited game time since returning from an 18-month layoff. Chappuis battled gamely, but it was a tough ask for him to go up against some of Asia's finest players.
Kiatisuk said, "Losing Sarach was a big blow as he is such an important player as a defensive midfielder. Chappuis is more of an attacking midfielder. He tried his best but he needs more time to get back to his top level."