The AFF Suzuki Cup tour has finally arrived in Manila to set the stage for the 20th edition of Southeast Asia’s most coveted football competition, which is being jointly hosted by the Philippines and Myanmar.
Defending champions Thailand, fresh from their 2-2 World Cup qualifying draw with Australia, kick-start the group stages on Saturday with a marquee matchup with Indonesia, at 3:30pm Cambodian time.
The second game sees hosts Philippines taking on Singapore at 7pm.
The Group B matches roll into action on Sunday, with Cambodia taking on 2010 winners and 2014 runners-up Malaysia in Yangon at 3:30pm, with Myanmar and Vietnam contesting the other fixture, which is set for a 6:30pm kick-off.
After the completion of the group phase on November 26, the two-legged semifinals and final will be held between December 3 and 17.Lively anticipation surrounds Cambodia’s plunge into the Cup proper for the first time since 2008 and that sense of occasion has not been lost on South Korean Lee Tae Hoon, who became the first foreign coach to steer the Angkor Warriors into the cup proper after an unbeaten qualifying run.
A youthful Cambodian squad heavy on energy and enthusiasm but somewhat light on experience has dusted off Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Singapore in a friendly and is staying positive for the crucial opener against Malaysia.
As has been his wont, Lee Tae Hoon is keeping his expectations modest. “First of all we have to admit that these are the strongest teams in the region,” he said before departing for the pre-tournament friendly with Singapore at the start of the week.
“We need to be at our best every time we take the pitch. This will be a big challenge for our players.”Cambodia face a tough test against Malaysia, who made a grand fight of the 2014 final against Thailand before losing 4-3 on aggregate after having lost the first leg 2-0.
Two late Thailand strikes undid Malaysia’s fierce fightback to 3-0 in the second encounter.Former international Ong Kim Swee, who is now in charge of the Malaysian squad, has made it clear that his top priority is to sharpen his side’s competitive edge after disappointing campaigns in 2018 World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup qualifying.
The Malaysian tactician has made it abundantly clear that he has a healthy respect for Cambodia having seen the side from close quarters and his guarded approach is to leave nothing to chance.