Kean to lead Brunei in AFF Qualifiers

Steve Kean will take charge of Brunei Darussalam as they attempt to reach only their second Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup finals this month.

The qualifying assignment marks the former Blackburn Rovers’ manager first foray into international football coaching since his arrival late last year to helm the country’s sole professional club Duli Pengiran Muda Mahkota (DPMM) in Singapore’s professional S.League.

Under the Scot’s tutelage, DPMM have been a revelation as they won the League Cup for the third time, reached the semi-finals of the Singapore Cup and are still leading the league as the season comes to a close.

17 players out of the 20-strong Brunei squad will come from DPMM, with the remaining three promoted from the national Under-21 squad that narrowly failed to reach the semi-finals of the ASEAN Under-21 Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy semi-finals on home soil in August.

Kean will have his work cut out in leading the Tebuan as the qualifiers mark their first official international fixtures in more than a year since the conclusion of the 2012 AFF qualifiers in Myanmar when they narrowly failed to reach the finals.

The last time they made the finals of the biennial regional tournament was way back in the inaugural edition in 1996 in Singapore when they finished fourth in the five-team Group A with a win and three losses.

Subsequent editions saw the regional minnows fail to qualify or participate in the tournament.

An interesting battles of tactical wits loom for him as he is set to come up against Serbian tactician Radjoko Avramovic, who is now helming Myanmar after masterminding Singapore’s three AFF triumphs during a decade-long reign.

Brunei will depart for Laos on Friday 10 October and commence their qualifying campaign against Timor-Leste two days later.

They will subsequently take on qualifying hosts Laos (14 October), Myanmar (16 October) and Cambodia (20 October).

The top two finishers will advance into the final rounds of the tournament which will be played in late November. The qualifying runners-up will be pooled in Group A with co-hosts Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.

A place in Group B alongside defending champions and co-hosts Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia awaits the qualifying winners, with games held at the Singapore Sports Hub.

Photo: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo