Malaysia’s 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup chances

Dez Corkhill, Managing Editor of Astro Arena and a Southeast Asian football commentator, gives his two cents on Malaysia’s 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup rivals in Group B and their chances of securing a knockout berth…

Myanmar

Under former Singapore head coach Raddy Avramovic, Myanmar are fit and well organised. There’s a muscular and youthful feel, and they maintain a core of the squad with experience from the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup. Myanmar often do well in age restricted tournaments, and then struggle to develop onto the full international stage. This is where Avramovic’ experience both with Singapore and Kuwait before that will benefit his often ill-disciplined charges.

Avramovic has some outstanding players in the striking trio of Kyi Lin, Kyaw Ko Ko and Yan Paing, whilst Zaw Min Tun at the heart of the defence and captain Khin Maung Lwin will be the muscular barrier for Malaysia to get past. If he can instil the defensive organisation he is renowned for, then Myanmar will be difficult opposition.

Match prediction: A close victory for the Harimau Malaya.

Thailand

Despite being an evolving young team and playing under a relatively inexperienced but highly rated Kiatisuk Senamuang, Thailand are arguably the team to beat in Group B. The Thai head coach has left out some star names such as Datsakorn Thonglao and Teerasil Dangda and promoted many of the 2014 Asian Games players to his Suzuki Cup squad, but don’t think that this is an inexperienced team going to Singapore

The spine of goalkeeper Kawin Thammasatchanan, midfielder Adul Lahso and striker Kirati Keawsombut is still there to add experience, and the new team is built around 22-year old Suphaburi midfielder Charyl Chappuis. The Swiss born midfielder, who won the FIFA World Under-17 title whilst playing for Switzerland, is a hardworking playmaker with an eye for a pass. Therefore Thailand will definitely go into this group as red hot favourites.

Match prediction: Loss by an odd goal.

Singapore

The near neighbours are in the midst of a strange transition under Bernd Stange. Victories over Laos and Cambodia mean that there’s a feel-good factor in the camp going into the tournament, but there’s a feeling that this is glossing over some problems. Many of the old heads who had served the team so well in winning the title last time out, have been edged out of the side as Stange has tried to introduce some new – if not necessarily younger – faces.

The problem for the 66-year old German is that the younger players introduced don’t have the gravitas of a Bennett, a Mustafic or a Duric, nor the creativity of a Qui Li or a Shi Jia Yi. The team has never really replaced this quintet. Singapore have Safuwan Baharuddin, Khairul Amri and Hariss Harun as their outstanding talents, ably supported by goalkeeper Hassan Sunny and Baihakki Khaizan, but the big question surrounds the supporting cast’s ability to stand up to some very public scrutiny. Singapore are a team full of good footballers and will be organised and disciplined, but unless an on-field leader emerges, it may well hurt the Lions.

Match prediction: A tense, energy-sapping draw.

Conclusion

Judging from all that, Malaysia could potentially register one each in the Win-Draw-Lose columns. So for Dollah Salleh, goal difference may decide his men's chances of progressing to the semi-finals.