Here’s what you need to know about Malaysia’s opponents in Group B of the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Singapore…
Match date: May 30th
Despite only joining FIFA in 2005, Timor-Leste have been steadily improving and most recently achieved their highest-ever position of 151st in the FIFA World Rankings, outranking the likes of Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. Similarly, their Under-23 side have been doing well, achieving a third-place finish in the 2013 AFF U-19 Championship – Timor Leste’s highest achievement in the competition. Although they have never made it out of the group stages of the SEA Games in the past three editions, they are capable of rectifying it this time with the current batch of players.
The team have a mixture of naturalised and local players, but the player to watch is 19-year-old Adelino Trindade. Capable of playing as a full-back or an attacking midfielder, the Timorese was instrumental in his team’s third-place finish in the 2013 AFF U-19 Championship, scoring five goals including a hat-trick against Laos.
Fact: Malaysia once netted 11 unanswered goals past Timor-Leste in the 2009 SEA Games – their biggest defeat so far in the competition.
Match date: June 2nd
The young Vietnam players are probably in high spirits going into this tournament, having reached the Round of 16 of the 2014 Asian Games and qualified for the 2016 AFC U-23 Championship in Qatar. After disappointing attempts in the previous editions, their wait for the first gold medal since 1959 could be ended by 20-year-old Nguyen Cong Phuong, who has been labelled as the ‘Vietnamese Messi’. Malaysian fans might remember him from the Harimau Muda’s 2-1 defeat to Vietnam in the 2016 AFC U-23 Championship qualifying just two months ago, as the Hoang Anh Gia Lai starlet proved to be a nightmare for Razip Ismail’s boys.
Vietnam will also have a couple of players that finished runners-up at the 2014 AFF U-19 Youth Championship including Nguyen Van Toan, who has been tipped to be the next Le Cong Vinh and scored a total of 11 goals in the AFF U-19 Championship and the AFC U-19 Championship qualifying two years ago. Perhaps fortunately for Malaysia, Vietnam will be without the services of midfield maestro Ngo Hoang Thinh and winger Phan Van Long, who are out of the tournament with broken ribs and a groin injury respectively.
Fact: Since an age limit was imposed on the men’s tournament, Vietnam only failed to make it out of the group stages in 2003 and 2013.
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Match date: June 4th
When it comes to winning the gold medal in football at the SEA Games, nobody is as good as the Thais, having won it 14 out of 27 times since the tournament began in 1959. To ensure the team successfully defend the gold medal they won two years ago, head coach Choketawee Promrut has enlisted eight players from the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup-winning team including the three players who were named in our Team of the Tournament: Chanathip Songkrasin, Tanaboon Kesarat and Peerapat Notchaiya.
Their only injury concern is captain Sarach Yooyen, who picked up an injury during a friendly match against Cameroon last month and is now fighting against time to regain his full fitness.
Fact: Thailand's bid to win their ninth consecutive golds in 2009 was ended by Malaysia striker Ahmad Fakri Saarani, who scored an injury-time winning goal to knock them out.