FFT's Telling it like it is: Winfried Schaefer, Thailand

Thailand are about to commence the final round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. Rewind four years ago and German-born coach Winfried Schaefer was pulling the strings as his Thai outfit was knocked out in 2014 qualifying. Here, Schaefer recalls some of the obstacles he faced and his optimism for the current War Elephants...

I am really happy to see Thailand doing so well. They are a good team now. Zico [coach Kiatisuk Senamuang] has come in and made a real difference.

Thailand play good football and I hope they can go all the way to the World Cup. They can do it

He is a Thai coach and many of the young players have come through with him. I see that now at the King's Cup, they have most of the first-team players to call upon.

In my time we did not and I had to use young players, but it meant that we helped lay the foundation stone for today's success.

Thailand have learned and improved very quickly. When I was coach, we had some good players like Messi Jay [Chanathip Songkrasin] and others.

I tried to give them as many chances to play as I could. They have grown and have more experience now. It is great to see them reaching the potential they always had. The goalkeeper Kawin was my goalkeeper. He could play in Europe.

I think perhaps the biggest difference now compared to my time is that all of Thai football works together to support the national team.

In my time, there was Muangthong United who were very good especially with the young players. Buriram United sometimes made problems and there was politics involved too. Now all the clubs are working together for the World Cup.

In the past the players went back to their club teams and sometimes you worried about what they would do: the training and everything else.

Some teams were good and professional, others not so much, but it is much better now. When you have a good league, it makes a difference.

I see that the league has stopped for two weeks for the international break. In my time, that did not happen and the games just continued.

Now the league stops to train, whereas we came together four days before a game. Now there is a national team match and the whole league stops.

It gives you a chance to coach tactics properly with the players, which is a great thing for the manager.

Schaefer helped bring current stars like Chanathip through the ranks

If I had enjoyed the same support and the same service then I believe we could have qualified for the 2014 World Cup because the talent was always there.

It was a great performance and everyone was talking about the national team, not only in Thailand but in Asia

We still did well in the group stage. In the first game in Australia we lost 2-1. Until the 58th minute we were winning 1-0 and we were having no problems, but then the Australians equalised.

We were playing well, but then our fitness levels went down. The players from Australia were playing in England or Germany and they were fitter and five minutes they got the decisive goal.

We came home after the game in Australia to play Oman in Bangkok and the energy was still flowing and the confidence was high. We knew that we could win this game.

The stadium was full and there were lots of television cameras and the energy was everywhere. Oman actually had a very good team but we gave 100 per cent and all the players worked so hard.

We pressed hard and scored fantastic goals to win 3-0. It was a great performance and everyone was talking about the national team, not only in Thailand but in Asia.