Thailand midfielder Charyl Chappuis is confident of repeating the War Elephants' 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup success, following an impressive team performance against Asian champions Australia, and after a training camp that has the players fighting fit.
The Thais kick off the 2016 campaign against Indonesia in Bocaue on Saturday, and are hot favourites to retain the title they won two years ago. They are joined in Group A by the Philippines and Singapore, as they bid for a place in the last four.
Suphanburi's Chappuis was one of the stars of the 2014 victory, scoring four times and becoming a household name in Thailand in the process. He is hoping for a repeat performance this year, but he also cautioned against getting carried away with the 2-2 draw at home to the Socceroos in Tuesday's World Cup qualifier.
"I think we played well, but you also have to say that Australia played poorly," Chappuis told ESPN FC. "You could see in the first half that we had some problems because of the new system, and because we hadn't played in a really long time.
A photo posted by Charyl Chappuis (@charyl10) on
"But in the second half, Thailand played really well and with a lot of heart. I think the camp was really good for us. We are really fit."
The performance of Sirroch Chatthong on Tuesday was key to Thailand's strong second-half display against the Australians. Few fans had heard of the imposing Ubon UMT United striker before head coach Kiatisuk Senamuang selected him ahead of the World Cup qualifying games against Saudi Arabia and Japan in September.
Sirroch's presence may be particularly important, with the Thais missing other attacking options, Adisak Kraisorn and Tana Chanbut, through injury.
Chappuis admits that Sirroch gives the side a different dimension and hopes he can help the Thais emerge victorious again.
"I think he is a new style of player that Thailand have never had before so he can help us against teams like Australia. I hope he does well for us," said the Swiss-Thai.
Chappuis played through the pain in 2014 before his knee injury caused him to miss almost 18 months of his career. Doubts over his fitness persisted, and he was left out of the original squad for this tournament before proving his worth in the training camp and earning a recall.
"I had a great tournament two years ago," said Chappuis. "When you consider that my knee was already damaged and I was in a lot pain, it was quite a good achievement. I hope we can repeat it."
Kiatisuk earned a lot of praise for his tactical flexibility in employing a 3-5-2 formation against the Australians. As Chappuis suggests, it took time for the team to get going in the first half, but it worked well in the second period as wing backs Tristan Do and Theerathon Bunmathan gave the Thais added attacking impetus.
However, the Thai coach suggested he would not be using the same formation for the AFF Cup. "Against ASEAN opponents, we'll play either 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 - the two formations with which we're more familiar," Kiatisuk told The Nation newspaper. "We could be more effective, both offensively and defensively,"
In the only squad change from the World Cup qualifier, central defender Koravit Namwiset comes back into the squad after missing the Australia game through suspension. Nattapon Malapun -- a late substitute against the Socceroos -- drops out.
Kiatisuk is well aware that the defending champions are expected to win the tournament, but warned against complacency.
"Our target is to win the title, but we can ill afford to be overconfident," he said. "We must give it our all in every game. All the lads have a good understanding of our tactics after the training over the past two weeks."
With the likes of playmaker Chanathip Songkrasin, striker Teerasil Dangda and skipper Theerathon all very impressive against Australia, Thailand are certainly the team to beat. After the passing of their revered King last month, Kiatisuk also highlighted that this tournament was "another chance for us to put a smile on people's faces."