Just less than a week, Southeast Asian football will face their clash in a biennial competition named AFF Championship, or commonly AFF Suzuki Cup due to sponsorship with Japanese car manufacture, Suzuki. This will be the 11th time of the competition has arranged, after founded 20 years ago in Singapore. Four nations has lift the trophy as a winner: Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Both Thailand and Singapore become the most successful team with 4 trophies in their cabinet, while Vietnam and Malaysia, have won each one trophy, in 2007 and 2010.
From 1996 until 2000, the cup arranged in one host with third place match. Start from 2002 until now, the cup arranged in two hosts. Since the 2007 edition, there was no official third place match. Hence, there were no official third place and fourth place being awarded. Semi-finalists are listed in alphabetical order. In 2016 edition, both the host country, Philippines and Myanmar are going to have their first time as the host. Philippines have qualified to the 2nd round 3 edition in a row: 2010, 2012, and 2014. While Myanmar haven’t qualified any, except in 2004.
For an introduction, let’s start from the host countries.
It is a debut for Myanmar for being a host in this competition, despite they were able to hosting a larger competition, AFC U-19 Championship in 2014. In that time, Myanmar U-19 were able to ran until the semifinal, before Qatar beat them 3-2 after an extra time. The other, Myanmar also have been a host for SEA Games in 2013.
The capital city and the ex-capital city of Myanmar, Naypyidaw and Yangon should be ready. Thuwunna YTC in Yangon and Wunna Theikdi in Naypyidaw will be the venue of group B, which contain Myanmar, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Vietnam. There are will be 6 matches in total. Thuwunna will handle 5 of 6, while Wunna Theikdi only handle 1 match, Cambodia against Vietnam. Malaysia vs Cambodia will be the first match of group B in November 20, 2016, 15.00 local time (UTC +6:30), while the host will face Vietnam 3 hours later in the same stadium.
Same as Myanmar, Philippines also have their first time hosting an AFF Competition. Both Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue and the legendary, Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila will be the venue. Before, the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) initially withdrew as co-host of the group stages in February 2016, due to the failure of contract with PSS. The Philippines also later announced that they would appeal to keep their hosting rights. On March 12, PFF was able to contract with PSS and success to secure their hosting rigts.
PSS will handle 5 of 6 matches, while Rizal Memorial Stadium only handle one match, Indonesia vs Singapore. Built in 1934, this stadium has been a venue for many matches. Prior to its renovation in 2011, the stadium was badly deteriorated and was unfit for international matches. As a result, the 2nd leg of semifinal in 2010 was moved to Jakarta, Indonesia due to unavailability of stadium that passed the AFF standard.
Finally, Cambodia have qualified to the final round after didn’t qualify for 3 times. Last time Cambodia have qualified to the final round were in 2008, gained no victory in matches against Indonesia, Myanmar, and Singapore. Cambodia qualified as a winner in qualification round alongside Laos, Brunei, and Timor Leste and won against them all. As a winner, Cambodia automatically seeded in group B with Malaysia, Vietnam, and Myanmar.
Indonesia, the sleeping giant. Indonesia was received their suspension from FIFA, the result is a year of vacancy of Indonesian football. The league stopped, the national team matches cancelled, and many players were going abroad to find a better football instead of compete in an unrecognised, amateur football competition which operated by several companies and institutions.
The sleeping giant woke up in a match against their eternal rival, Malaysia in a 3-0 victory in Surakarta. Later, Indonesia faced Vietnam in a 2-2 score. And Indonesia were have some away matches against Myanmar and Vietnam without gained any victory. Indonesia have entered the final stage for 4 times, but haven’t got any trophies in the cabinet. In 2012 and 2014, Indonesia failed to qualify to the semifinal. They are still hoping for a good result in 2016.
The Malaysian Tiger, their nickname. They have lifted the trophy for the first time in 2010, beating Indonesia 4-2 in aggregate. They always qualify to the semifinal since 2010. In 2012, Malaysia defeated by Thailand in the semifinal. In 2014, Malaysia were shocking the oppontents by able to qualified to the final stage, despite the poor results in some friendly matches, including the defeat by Tajikistan 4-1.
Malaysia were lost 2-0 in the 1st leg of the final, but can up 3-0 in the 2nd leg, before Charyl Chappuis and Chanatip Songkarin scored the goal and secured Thailand’s 4th trophy. Malaysia still looked as a tough oppontent despite their several defeats against ‘weak’ country, such as Papua New Guinea and difficult to win against Fiji, Macau, Afghanistan, and New Caledonia.
The White Angels, are the one of six teams that always entered the final round of AFF Championship. But, since the year of built in 1996 until the last edition in 2014, Myanmar’s campaign always stopped in the group stage, couldn’t qualify to the semifinal. Once Myanmar were coached by most successful manager of AFF Championship, Radojko Avramovic in 2014, who have ever managed Singapore. But, they still couldn’t win any matches in the group stage
Despite their youth teams are widely known as a strong team, such as Myanmar U-20 have ever played in the U-20 World Cup in New Zealand, their senior team are still slaughtered by their Southeast Asia neighbours.
Before 2010, Philippines were recognised as a ‘weak’ team across the Southeast Asian football. They were several times slaughtered by their oppontents, including the 13-1 defeat by Indonesia. In 2010, they were shocking the people of Vietnam after beat them 2-0 in Hanoi and qualified into the semifinal. They always qualify to the semifinal but never touched to final stage.
Naturalisation is a way that they could be success like now, beside their good maintance in football. Beating Indonesia 4-0, DPR Korea 3-2, Bahrain 2-1, and many others are the result of what they have been planted before. In 2016, they will be the host, and their supporters can be their moral boosters to compete in the competition.
Singapore is the most-time of lifting the trophy alongside with Thailand. Four times their captain lift it in front of the spectators. Last time Singapore could win the tournament was in 2012, beat Thailand 3-1 in aggregate. But, in the next edition, in 2014, Singapore failed to qualified to the semifinal after finished 3rd in the group stage. Same as in 2008, when Singapore won the tournament but failed to proceed to the next round in 2010.
A sequence of a failure to win, 6 matches without any win, even against weak teams like Hong Kong and Cambodia. Once, the impressive performance of the goalkeeper, Izwan Mahbud, has shocked the Asian football when they were hold Japan in a 0-0 draw result in Saitama. Who knows if Singapore will lift the trophy for the 5th time?
Once again, the most successful team of Southeast Asia. Thailand is the only team of Southeast Asia that could ran into the 3rd round of 2018 World Cup Qualification of Asia. Thailand finished their 2nd round campaign without any lost in 6 matches. But, their poor results in the qualifiers of world cup, reported that they would send their ‘back-up’ team into the AFF tournament. It sounds terrible, a giant in Southeast Asia football compete with only their weaker team. But, it shows that Thailand want to focus on the World Cup Qualifiers rather than AFF Championship.
In 2014, Thailand won the tournament under their own legendary, Kiatisuk Senamuang, after their impressive run along the group stage and semifinal, before defeated by Malaysia in the 2nd leg of final. But, Thailand still quit as the champions with a victory, 4-3 in aggregate.
Last but not least, Vietnam are also one of strong teams. Vietnam always qualify to the semifinal since 1996, only twice they couldn’t reach it, in 2004 and 2012. And they ever lifted the trophy of AFF in 2008, when they beat Thailand in Bangkok shokingly in the 1st leg and they only need a draw result to lift the trophy in Hanoi. Le Cong Vinh came as a hero, when he scored the late goal and secured their 1st trophy.
In 2014, they were almost reach the final stage. They beat Malaysia 2-1 in Kuala Lumpur, but somehow, they got beaten by Malaysia in Hanoi, in a humiliating defeat, 4-1. They are still unbeaten in 2016, including their victory against Syria (2-0), DPR Korea (5-2), Singapore (3-0), and Indonesia (3-2).