Schaefer wants Thailand to be "wild elephants"

BANGKOK - Thailand's new German coach Winfried Schaefer wants to transform his players into a courageous team of "wild elephants" and has vowed to devote his time to World Cup qualification, not lazing around on beaches.

"The symbol of the Thai team is a war elephant, it puts fear in the hearts of anyone, it's unstoppable and that's what we need to strive for," Schaefer told reporters on Friday after signing a three-year contract agreed on June 22.

"We need confidence, courage and character. We need to work like professionals. When the players go on to the field, they cannot be afraid, they must go out like wild elephants."

The 61-year old former Karlsruhe coach, who steered Cameroon to victory in the 2002 African Cup of Nations, said he wanted to halt Thailand's slide down the FIFA rankings and build a team of tough players capable of reaching the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

"I'm very positive and if I wasn't targeting the World Cup, I wouldn't have come here."

Thailand, 105th in the rankings two years ago, have fallen to 123rd. "We must stop this decline," Schaefer said. "I came here to work; I didn't come here for the beaches."

Thailand have never qualified for the World Cup finals and have been through their worst run of form in a decade, tumbling out of regional contests they used to dominate and failing to reach the Asian Cup finals for the first time in 23 years.

With his shoulder-length white hair, Schaefer looks more like an erstwhile rock star than a soccer coach, but his record is impressive - he has won UEFA Cup and Bundesliga titles as a player and the United Arab Emirates championship and African title as a coach.

Known better by his nickname "Winnie", Schaefer is the sixth foreigner in eight years to coach Thailand and his predecessors include compatriot and former team mate Siegfied Held and Englishmen Peter Withe, Peter Reid and Bryan Robson.

He said his priority was to work closely with the bosses of Thailand Premier League clubs to discipline and toughen up the players and make them hungry for success.

Thailand start their World Cup qualifying campaign on July 24 against the winners of the match between Palestine and Afghanistan. Palestine have a 2-0 first-leg lead.