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 By Jason Dasey

Charyl Chappuis says Thailand braced for World Cup road trip to West Asia

At a young age, Charyl Chappuis' passion for football was ignited. Delve into the story of how his love for the game has evolved.
In 2014, Thailand national team and Suphanburi midfielder, Charyl Chappuis, suffered a devastating injury. Following a 16-month layoff, he made his return to football. Here's his story.

Thailand midfielder Charyl Chappuis says that the Southeast Asian underdogs are primed to give a good account of themselves in two upcoming 2018 AFC World Cup qualifiers on the road.

The War Elephants have the daunting prospect of playing United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi on Thursday before facing Iraq on neutral soil in Tehran on Oct. 11.

The AFF champions sit on the bottom of Group B after losing to Saudi Arabia and Japan in last month's opening matches. But Suphanburi ace Chappuis says the Thais are good enough to avoid defeat in their next two games in West Asia.

"Our target is to get two points [from the next two matches]. That would be amazing," Chappuis told ESPN FC.

"We know where we are. We have a lot of work in front of us. We say game to game, we enjoy every moment."

Thailand were unlucky to lose 1-0 away to Saudi Arabia on Sept. 1 before being outclassed 2-0 at home by regional giants, Japan, five days later.

Facing up to the Samurai Blue in Bangkok was an experience that Chappuis says he'll never forget, but underlined the gulf in class between the two sides.

Thailand's Charyl Chappuis vs. Japan's Hasebe
Chappuis says he will never forget facing up to Japan's Europe-based stars like captain Makoto Hasebe.

"To play at home, versus great players like [Shinji] Kagawa and [Makoto] Hasebe, was great because I follow them as I like to watch Bundesliga," he said. "With our fans behind us, I really enjoyed the game but, of course, it was very difficult.

"We did our best, but we are thankful to our goalkeeper [Kawin]. He saved us a lot. It could be 6-0. But in the end you could say, it could have [also] been 1-1. We had the chance at 1-0, and if we scored that, maybe it would be a different game. You never know... that's football."

Chappuis added that he had the highest respect for U.A.E., who finished third in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, and upset Japan in their opening Group B match.

"U.A.E. won away against Japan... and they have great players like their No. 10 [Omar Abdulrahman]," he said. "I think Japan did a little bit of research about the way we play, and what's our style, so I think U.A.E. will be prepared for us."

With the return of midfielders Sarach Yooyen and Sanrawat Dechmitr, Chappuis could find himself on the bench for Thailand's third game of their third round campaign. But he says he's just happy to be back in the mix after a career-threatening knee injury sidelined him for 16 months. He only made his competitive comeback in June, and was a substitute in the Thais' opening third round qualifier in Saudi Arabia.

"When I saw that Sarach got the red card [against Saudi Arabia], I was hoping to play," he admits. "Zico knows what kind of player I am, and believes in me.

"It was not easy. I still know that I must do a lot of work. To be at the top level, I will keep on going. I was playing defensive midfield which is not so much my position, but it was OK. Japan are two or three levels up above us.

"My fitness level could be better. I'm working hard to try and help my club, my teams."

Swiss-born Chappuis, who was one of the stars of Thailand's 2013 Southeast Asian Games and 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup triumphs, has now earned 10 senior caps for his adopted country.

He won the 2009 FIFA U17 World Cup with Switzerland, and also represented his birth nation at U19 and U20 levels.

Jason Dasey is ESPN FC Senior Editor in Singapore. Formerly Asian editor of FourFourTwo, he was also a CNN and BBC broadcaster. Twitter: @JasonDasey.

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