Asia: Can Vietnam regain the AFF Cup?
The 8th edition of the AFF Suzuki Cup will take place from December 1st-29th. The tournament is in its 14th year and is held, for the most part, every two years for nations in the South East Asia region. Record champions Thailand and Singapore, with three tournament wins each, have been kept apart in the group stage with matches being held jointly in Indonesia and Vietnam. Surprise outfit Vietnam is the defending champion having beaten Thailand 3-2 on aggregate in the 2008 final and they will hope to regain the title but it will not be easy. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog previews this year’s competition:
Joint hosts Indonesia are hoping to win the tournament for the first time in the nation’s history and should they be able to accomplish that with a side entirely made up of domestically-based players then it will prove a great achievement for Austrian coach Alfred Riedl, who has just taken charge of the team in recent months. Another coach hoping to prove his mettle in this tournament is Bryan Robson who has to weigh up all kinds of expectations on his shoulders. Three-times winners of this tournament, Thailand have one of the strongest squads in the competition and will hope that someone of Robson’s calibre can steer them to the prize following their shock defeat to Vietnam two years ago. Malaysia made it to the semi-finals in 2007 which remains a tournament best following their elimination at the group stage just one year later. Laos are very much the whipping boys of the group as their last victory in this tournament came in the 2004 edition.
Current FIFA World Rankings: Thailand 114; Indonesia 135; Malaysia 150; Laos 171
Defending champions and joint-hosts Vietnam are an improving force in south east Asian football having won the 2008 AFF Cup against Singapore. Under the stewardship of Portuguese coach Henrique Calisto, who has been a pivotal figure in Vietnamese football since 2001, Vietnam knocked out Singapore out at the semi-final stage in 2008 so this tournament gives the latter the opportunity to get revenge and set them on thier way to a fourth AFF Cup title. Under Serbian coach Radojko Avramovic Singapore has won this tournament on two occasions in 2004 and 2007 with a limited squad and his achievements have put him in the bracket as one of the region’s most successful coaches. These two countries are expected to secure the two semi-final places available via this group as their other group opponents, Myanmar and Philippines, are expected to fight against the wooden spoon. Myanmar finished behind Indonesia and Singapore in 2008 but did have the consolation of beating Cambodia to finish third in the group. The Philippines didn’t even qualify for the 2008 tournament and have failed to progress to the knockout stage in each tournament that they have entered.
Current FIFA World Rankings: Singapore 138; Vietnam 139; Myanmar 144; Philippines 151