Harimau Malaya will have Singapore, Thailand, and a qualifier for company in the group stages.
BY DARREN GOON Follow on Twitter
Southeast Asia’s biennial international football tournament will be co-hosted by Singapore and Vietnam from 22nd November to 20th December 2014. This is to be the tenth edition of the AFF Suzuki Cup.
The group stage draw event was held at the Sheraton Hotel in Hanoi earlier this afternoon, and it was opened with speeches by Mr. Tran Quoc Tuan (VFF Vice-Chairman), HRH Sultan Ahmad Shah (President of the ASEAN Football Federation), and Mr. Masami Haga (Managing Director of Suzuki, title sponsors of the tournament). Officials and attendees were then entertained by a freestyle football performance, before the official match ball of the tournament, the Mitre Delta V12S, was introduced by the brand’s Vice-President of International Business Development, Mr. Greg Cowan.
AFF Secretary-General Datuk Azzuddin Ahmad came onstage to conduct the draw for the qualifying round, which was made up of Timor Leste, Brunei, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar. Qualifying will be held in Laos from 12th to 20th October, with the group winners and runners-up advancing to the AFF Suzuki Cup group stages.
The draw for the group stages was also conducted by Datuk Azzuddin. Group A consists of co-hosts Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, and the qualifying runners-up. Meanwhile, Group B includes co-hosts Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and the winners of the qualifiers.
Group B is unquestionably the tougher group, as it features the winners of eight of the last nine editions of the AFF Suzuki Cup, with defending champions Singapore the most successful team (4 titles), followed by Thailand (3 titles). Malaysia’s lone ASEAN title came in 2010.
With such esteemed opponents for company, Malaysia will not have it easy meeting FAM President Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah’s target of reaching the AFF Suzuki Cup final, which was stated by team manager Datuk Sudarsono Osman in The Star in July.
Harimau Malaya reached the semi-finals in the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup, before falling to eventual losing finalists Thailand. They meet Tajikistan on 8th August in an international friendly, before playing other warm-up games against Singapore and Jordan in the months preceding the tournament.