The Suzuki Cup is only a month away and each participating team is finalising their preparations. How did they fare in the recent international break?
Words by Kenneth Ho, Thanamahamongkhol Kritikorn, Vijhay Vick and Tio Prasetyo Utomo
The Garudas continued to impress upon their return from international exile, beginning with a 3-0 win over Malaysia, before following it up with a 2-2 draw with Vietnam recently.
It took the Vietnamese only 12 minutes to score two goals, but Zulham Zamrun reduced the deficit with a stunning free-kick before compatriot Irfan Bachdim levelled.
There is still some work to be done before that though, as Riedl needs to find a defensive partner to complement star player Evan Dimas in midfield.
AFF Suzuki Cup co-hosts Philippines suffered back-to-back 3-1 defeats during the recent international break, with the losses coming against Bahrain and North Korea.
Head coach used the opportunity to blood in new faces, with German-born striker Mike Ott given his debut against Bahrain. The Nurnberg II forward acquitted himself well just minutes into his debut, as he scored the Azkals’ lone goal in the match.
It was noted by Philippines media that the Azkals looked sluggish in these games, and that they struggled with set pieces.
The Philippines must look to immediate improvement, if they want to avoid the ignominy of exiting the tournament at the group stages.
Kiatisuk Senamuang’s men finished the first half of the final 2018 World Cup qualifying round with no points from four matches and are rooted to the bottom of group B.
Bolstered by the King’s Cup win in June, the War Elephants began the campaign with confidence and almost collected a point at King Fahd International Stadium, but a late penalty from Nawaf Al Abid on 84 minutes broke their hearts.
The War Elephants have lost momentum since then, as Thailand hopelessly lost 2-0 to a dominant Japan in Bangkok. Last month, they travelled to the Middle East and were outplayed in the 3-1 and 4-0 losses to UAE and Iraq respectively.
The Lions are still searching for a win, after two disappointing results in the month of October. A mouth-watering clash against Causeway rivals Malaysia on homeground got at least 30,000 fans to the National Stadium, but Singapore failed to take their chances and instead settled for a scoreless draw despite dominating the game.
V.Sundramoorthy's men next headed to Hong Kong, where Fandi Ahmad's eldest son Irfan Fandi was given his Singapore debut. The youngster failed to inspire his side though, as Singapore went down 2-0.
This stretches the Lions' winless run to five games, and interim coach Sundram has lots to ponder upon as he seeks to extend his coaching reign beyond the one-year contract he was offered. Of the lot in Group A, Singapore seem to be struggling the most.