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2019 Men’s World Championship 2019 Men’s World Championship
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Date: 10/3/2018

Men: Thailand (THA)


Key Player:  Open KANNARONG (centre back/goalkeeper)

Path to Buenos Aires 2018:  2017 IHF Men’s U17 Beach Handball World Championship - 8th 

You may think that a nation famed globally for its beaches will have more than an abundance of practise spots to prepare at for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, but for the Thailand men’s team, they travelled to northern Europe for a nine-day training camp in Maribo, about 150km south west of Copenhagen, Denmark.

While in Denmark they trained and played both outdoors and on an indoor sand facility with, and against, a variety of teams from Sweden and Denmark.

The link came about through the Dane, Morten Harkjær Nielsen, who was national beach handball coach for both Thailand’s men’s and women’s teams back in 2008, coaching them at the first Asian Beach Games in Bali, Indonesia, picking up a silver for the women and bronze for men.

After a successful spell as the women’s indoor coach in Thailand where he recorded their first, and only, appearance at the senior level of an IHF Women’s World Championship – 2009 in China – he returned back to Denmark and kept in touch with his old colleagues in Asia, offering his support ahead of the historic occasion in Argentina.

And over these past few weeks Nielsen oversaw a real community effort from Denmark both locally and nationally to help, with a local cycle shop providing free bikes for the team to help them get from their hostel to the training facility and Denmark’s national team coach for the men’s senior beach handball team, Gorm Andersen, visiting the small town to offer advice and help to Thailand’s coach Surakhom Kannarong and the team.

Kannarong himself has a wealth of knowledge, with over 20 years-worth of experience with handball in all its forms in the Asian nation. He oversaw qualification to Buenos Aires thanks to an eighth-place finish at the 2017 IHF Men’s U17 Beach Handball World Championship in Mauritius with his team ranking as the second-placed Asian side behind continental rivals Chinese Taipei in sixth.

An impressive preliminary round performance in Africa saw his side take a 2:1 shoot-out win over Venezuela in their first game and then a 2:0 win over Togo. A 2:0 loss against Russia, combined with the other match results meant that Russia, Venezuela and Thailand all ended on four points each, but thanks to head-to-head records and set difference, Thailand finished third going into the main round.

The next stage of competition saw them come up against Taipei, easily dispatching them 2:0 and this was followed by further 2:0 victories over hosts Mauritius and then Pakistan.

However, at the first knock-out stage, they lost on a shoot-out to Argentina in the quarter-finals and then could not recover quick enough later on the same day to beat Taipei again in the 5-8 placement round, losing 2:0 and going through to the 7/8 placement match where they lost 2:0 against Portugal.

They will again face their foes Chinese Taipei in their final preliminary group A match but start against the current U17 world and European champions, Spain. In between are matches against Venezuela, Uruguay and Hungary.

Coach Kannarong had prepared his team for six months previously to Mauritius 2017 and commented at the time that the strengths of the team were their speed and agility and he will put great faith in his players to qualify through to the main round.

Maybe with extra pressure on his shoulders to perform is the coaches’ son, Open Kannarong – but he backs it up on the sand, as he is a key player in the team, having topped the Mauritius 2017 scoring charts overall, with 143 points.

Alongside Kannarong, who can play centre back or goalkeeper, the team are an even mix of players from club sides Ubon Ratchathani, Sisaket, Samut Prakan and Bangkok.

Group at Buenos Aires 2018
Group A: Spain (ESP), Venezuela (VEN), Chinese Taipei (TPE), Thailand (THA), Uruguay (URU), Hungary (HUN)

Preliminary Group A: Match Schedule
All times local

Monday 8 October

12:30 ESP vs THA

17:00 THA vs VEN


Tuesday 9 October

10:00 THA vs URU

14:30 HUN vs THA


Wednesday 10 October

12:30 TPE vs THA


Photo: Morten Harkjær Nielsen