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With the tournament set to kick off in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur today, our experts give their opinions on what they expect to see from Southeast Asia's footballing powers

With festivities set to kick off today at the eight-nation tournament, Goal.com's regional experts sat down to share their opinions on what they expect to see in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.

How are Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur treating you?


Joe Patit (Goal.com Thailand): We are ready to host an international competition once again! Rajamangala national stadium will be filled with football fans, and the whole country will be awakened after Thailand's victory over Philippines on Saturday.

Peter Lozano (Philippines Expert): Bangkok is quite sunny. When I arrived here the news most talked around town was about Rafa Benitez becoming Chelsea's new manager and replacing Roberto Di Matteo. I expect that will change by this weekend!

Erick Bui (Goal.com Vietnam): Bangkok is quite beautiful at night!

Falah Abdullah (Goal.com Malaysia): Bukit Jalil is now under last minute construction, but the pitch is looking better than it ever has. I fully expect the "disgruntled" Malaysian fans to flock into the Stadium and support the national team.

Donny Afroni (Goal.com Indonesia): When I arrived in Kuala Lumpur, there were no posters or banners indicating that Malaysia was one of the hosts. At the stadium I only saw workers repairing the stands. even the owner of the apartment we're staying at didn't realise the AFF Cup is happening; he thought we were h

Peter Lozano (Philippines Expert): Bangkok is quite sunny. When I arrived here the news most talked around town was about Rafa Benitez becoming Chelsea's new manager and replacing Roberto Di Matteo. I expect that will change by this weekend!

Erick Bui (Goal.com Vietnam): Bangkok is quite beautiful at night!

Falah Abdullah (Goal.com Malaysia): Bukit Jalil is now under last minute construction, but the pitch is looking better than it ever has. I fully expect the "disgruntled" Malaysian fans to flock into the Stadium and support the national team.

Donny Afroni (Goal.com Indonesia): When I arrived in Kuala Lumpur, there were no posters or banners indicating that Malaysia was one of the hosts. At the stadium I only saw workers repairing the stands. even the owner of the apartment we're staying at didn't realise the AFF Cup is happening; he thought we were here for a racing event.

Khamsaveng Inthavong (Laos Expert): The weather in Kuala Lumpur is good; I think the other Group B participants will be able to adapt well.

How do you expect your country to perform?

Bhas Kunju (Goal.com Singapore): It's going to be a very tough ride. Every team coming in to the tournament seems equally strong but it also appears to be that all are lacking in form, maybe with the exception of Philippines. The 4-0 win over Pakistan for Singapore should have been a much-needed morale booster for the Lions, and might just give them the momentum to barely ease into the semis.

Joe: Although Thailand are not at their best I do believe we can reach the finals. We will be playing in front of a home crowd and our players are hungry for victory after 10 years of disappointment.

Falah: It's easy to understand why people are writing Malaysia off, but for me, I believe that the wily Rajagobal might have some tricks up his sleeve and lead his charges to victory again. Lest we forget, Malaysia lost to Maldives prior to the 2009 SEA Games and lost Selangor prior to AFFSC 2010; they went on to win both tournaments under Rajagobal.

Khamsaveng: The lack of International friendly matches will be a disadvantage for the young and inexperienced Laos squad. Their last international games were in VFF Cup which ended in disappointment with three consecutive loss against Vietnam, the South Korea University team, and Turkmenistan.

Erick: Of course I expect Vietnam to win the tournament. In order to do that, we must first get past the group stage. It will be tough as other three teams are all strong. I believe if Vietnam can retain the confidence and avoid unfortunate injuries, our national team will have good results in this tournament.

Donny: It is not easy to predict Group B. The three big countries have had unpleasant results in their friendly matches. Despite their recent poor form, I think Indonesia still has a chance to qualify for the semi-finals.


Who will be the tournament's biggest surprise?

Bhas: Philippines. I think there is little doubt about that. Yes they're missing a few key players but they are a much-improved side. In 2010 they reached the semis for the first time and they are in a relatively open group with two other middle-ranked ASEAN teams, so a semi-final berth looks likely once again.

Falah: Vietnam. They are a quick and well-drilled bunch who play attractive short-passing football. And to add to that, they have exceptionally high fitness levels; courtesy of former Leeds defender, Dylan Kerr. Le Cong Vinh to lead by example upfront.

Donny: Philippines. Michael Weiss' men showed encouraging results in their friendlies, including two wins against Singapore. Even without Neil Etheridge, they are still able to repeat the success two years ago when it reached the semi-finals.

Joe: Vietnam, they will be the one who knock the giants out and reach finals.

Khamsaveng: Philippines or Myanmar. The Azkals have the biggest chance to perform better than they did in 2010 edition, while Myanmar have some bright talents such as Kyi Lin and David Htan. I believe they can pull off some magic in Group A.

Peter: Can I say Philippines again? We learn a lot from 2010. It's not gonna be the same as then, but Azkals have everything it takes to surprise the tournament. Like Khamsaveng, I think Myanmar have some potential to shock the tournament since they did well in the qualification phase.

Erick: I agree, Philippines could be a surprise package. They can surely cause many problems for other teams, although I hope they don't give Vietnam trouble…


Conversely, who's likely to disappoint?

Peter: Indonesia have been distracted with internal conflicts. They even have split national teams. How can it be possible?

Erick:  I think Singapore will have a difficult time, because still have to rely on 42-year-old Duric for goals.

Donny: Malaysia don't seem as tough as they were in 2010, and they've lost some of their support. Fans have been disappointed with their recent form, and  this could be the end of the Rajagopal era.

Khamsaveng: Indonesia, with all of problem which they have, Merah Putih will come with a weaker squad than they did in 2010.

Falah: I would have to go with Singapore. I think they're asking too much of evergreen striker Duric this time around, and the hoopla surrounding Avramovic leaving after the tournament doesn't help either.

Joe: Malaysia and Singapore aren't as dangerous as they were in the past, and they also have incredibly high expectations.

Bhas: I was going to say Singapore, but I think it might be Malaysia. The pressure of playing in front a demanding home crowd might just get to them, in addition to the expectations following their previous AFFSC triumph and the SEA Games gold medal win last year. Their form has been telling too, with the team just not being able to gel.


Last but not least, the obvious question: who do you expect to win the tournament, and why?

Peter: Philippines! But to be realistic, that's unlikely to happen. I think the winner of the tournament will come from Group A; the toughest teams are all there! So if not Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam are my slight favourites, with an edge to Thailand.

Erick: I pick Thailand for the glory. Despite not having made the best best preparations, the War Elephants have quality players who can make the difference. As hosts of group A they're the favourites to reach the semi-finals. If they reach the knockout stage they can beat anyone in SEA.

Bhas: I pick Thailand to surprise everyone. It's been 10 years since they won the competition and with them as hosts they might just have the right factors in place to clinch the trophy.

Donny: Thailand. Their recent friendly results have been convincing enough for Thailand to erase the memories their worst-ever result tournament's history, when they failed to record a win in 2010.

Khamsaveng: Not to underestimating defending champions Malaysia, but I think Thailand as a co-host have the bigger chance to win. Besides Thailand, Vietnam are my second choice as they're the most well-prepared team.

Falah: It will be a tough finale between Thailand and Malaysia. The Thais are big favorites with Teerasil Danga and company ready to cause trouble, and the Malayan Tigers will have to dig deep to defend the title.

Joe: Thailand or Vietnam. Thailand have the advantage of playing the group stage at home, but Vietnam are the most dangerous competitor of the tournament and they play an aggressive  attacking style that Thailand isn't comfortable with.

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