|By Khalis Rifhan
Southeast Asian nations Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia will be in action this week as they have scheduled friendly matches ahead of their 2015 AFC Cup qualifiers on February 6 against Middle Eastern opponents.
2012 AFF Championship winners Singapore take on Bahrain, ranked 117 in the world by Fifa, at the National stadium in Riffa on February 1. The game is scheduled to kick-off at 11p.m., Singapore time.
Interim coach V.Sundramoorthy and his 23-man squad will then embark on their quest for Asian Cup qualification with a trip to Amman five days later to face Jordan at the King Abdullah Stadium.
Their previous meeting in the qualifying rounds in 2010 saw Jordan shatter the Lions' hopes of a second appearance in the tournament proper, as they sunk the visitors 2-1 at the same stadium.
The only team not to play a warm-up match prior to the qualifiers is Thailand, whose friendly against the UAE in China was abandoned due to visa problems.
The Thais will open their Asian Cup qualifying campaign against Kuwait, who are looking for a tenth appearance in the tournament. While the Al-Azraq had no difficulties advancing from the previous qualifying round, they had a terrible outing in Doha subsequently as they lost all three matches against Uzbekistan, China and hosts Qatar, and finished bottom of Group A.
While the Thais and Singapore were on the brink of qualification in 2010, the Tigers of Malaysia had one of their worst campaigns in their history. They were the only side not to register a point during the qualifying round, losing all their matches to UAE and Uzbekistan and conceding 12 goals in four matches.
Rajagobal’s boys will surely be keen to rectify that record and will be preparing for their qualifying match against Qatar on February 6 with a friendly against Iraq in Dubai five days earlier.
The Merah Putih of Indonesia were thrashed 5-0 by Jordan in a warm-up match at the King Abdullah stadium in Amman on January 31, and will next make the trip to Dubai to face 2007 Asian Cup champions Iraq at the Al-Rashid Stadium.
While their Southeast Asian counterparts will be playing ‘A’ international friendies, Vietnam will be taking on South Korean club Ulsan Hyundai on January 31 in Hanoi, six days before their scheduled qualifying match against UAE at the My Dinh National Stadium.
2015 AFC Cup Qualifiers – February 6
Thailand vs Kuwait - Rajamangala stadium, Bangkok (8p.m.*)
Jordan vs Singapore - King Abdullah stadium, Amman (10p.m.*)
Iraq vs Indonesia - Al-Rashid Stadium, Dubai (UAE) (930p.m.*)
Qatar vs Malaysia - Jassim Bin Hamad stadium, Doha (11.30p.m.*)
Vietnam vs UAE - My Dinh National stadium, Hanoi (7p.m.*)
*Singapore timing +8 GMT*