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AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 favourites and dark horses: Who are most likely to go all the way at AFF Championship?

04:30 SAST 2021/12/05
Suzuki Cup 2020
An exciting tournament awaits as Vietnam look to defend their title, but they will face some tough opposition

The AFF Championship has only ever seen four different nations being able to claim the right to be called the best in Southeast Asia and with the 2020 AFF Suzuki Cup on the horizon, it would seem that the usual suspects will be the ones to look out for.

GOAL explores the views across the region and the expert opinions suggest one team might very well continue their dominance as others look in awe of them.

Thana Wongmanee - GOAL Thailand

I would go for Vietnam as the winner. They seemed to be the only nation around that maintained a 'competitive' environment. V.League kept going more or less as normal for a long time and the national team has been competing at the biggest stage SEA nations ever participated. Compared to others, they're more than ready.

2018 was an unsuccessful experiment for Thailand and in 2021, they still can't quite get it right. They have all the potential to emerge as an 'overkill' team for AFF 2020, be it newfound hot prospects like Suphanat Mueanta, Ekanit Panya or Kritsada Kaman, while J1 League stars like Chanathip and Theerathon would also represent a huge boost if they join the team. But with a super attacking coach like Mano Polking, we all know it's not necessarily a 'tournament-winning' approach. I can see Thailand stroll all the way to the final, only to then get beaten.

I don't think they are a 'dark horse' in the traditional sense, but seeing as Indonesia won't be at their very best due to the ongoing domestic league, it would be quite the surprise to see the Garuda reach the semi-finals.

Erick Bui - GOAL Vietnam

Despite the recent poor run of form in the third phase of the World Cup qualifiers, I expect Vietnam to hit their best form again in the upcoming edition of the AFF Suzuki Cup. Chemistry and stability are the biggest strengths of the team and their high levels of confidence when playing against other ASEAN sides is always a factor.

However, there are worries about the lack of fitness as V.League was suspended prematurely this year and there's also the absence of some key players due to injury. Nevertheless, Park Hang Seo’s undefeated record against ASEAN teams might very well be extended if the players can maintain their focus and do not underestimate their opponents.

Cambodia has the potential to cause a nice surprise at the AFF Suzuki Cup 2020. The development of Cambodian football is clearly shown as they gradually produce quality young talents such as Sieng Chanthea, Leng Nora, Om Chanpolin and others. Cambodia has also rejuvenated strongly in the past three years with the current average age around 24-25 years old.

Tegar Paramartha - GOAL Indonesia

I predict that Vietnam will retain their title because I think their level is above all ASEAN countries right now. We have seen it at their matches in the World Cup Qualifiers. Even if they have lost all matches so far, they put up a really good fight in each game.

Indonesia always have some sort of issue and this year we will the have same problem as at the 2016 edition, with the coach only able to call up two players max from each Liga 1 team because the Indonesian League will continue during the Suzuki Cup.

So I think Indonesia will have to work very hard to get past Vietnam and Malaysia in the group stages. If they make it to the KO stages, finishing as runners-up will probably be the best they can achieve, but they might prove us all wrong and become champions for the first time.

That is why they are a dark horse for me, because they will have a young squad and limited choice of players. But who knows coach Shin Tae-Yong can make miracles happen!

Ooi Kin Fai - GOAL Malaysia

It's very hard to look past Vietnam as the potential winners and outright favourites for the 2020 AFF Suzuki Cup. Three years on from their triumph in 2018, Park Hang-seo has pretty much kept the same group of players and made them an even more formidable opponent than before.

I would expect Malaysia to be thereabouts and be one of the main challenger for the trophy, even though there are major concerns over the dependence of an ageing Aidil Zafuan in the heart of defence and star pupil Safawi Rasid a pale shadow of his former self.

If there are any suprises in the competition, I think that might come from Singapore, who have the advantage of being the host and possibly the only one with any supporters in the crowd. The motivation to do well in home territory might just spur the Lions to create an upset or two.

Jay Parmar - GOAL Singapore
As far as favourites go, it’s hard to look past Vietnam’s star-studded selection. Reigning champions, two-time winners and the only Asean side in FIFA’s top 100, the Golden Dragons will look to become the first side to retain the regional title since Thailand in 2016.

When it comes to dark horses, Malaysia stunned the region when they pulled off a shock semi-final victory over Thailand three years ago. Despite a narrow 3-2 aggregate loss to Vietnam in the final, Harimau Malaya remain a force to be reckoned with, and with powerhouse Thailand potentially set to be without some of their key players once again, they could fancy their chances of going one further in 2021.

Looking at Singapore's chances, it’s not been a great decade for the four-time champions, who have failed to make it past the group stages since their last title win in 2012. However, following the late heartbreaks and fine margins of 2014 and 2018, the Lions will be desperate to emerge from a group containing the likes of Myanmar, the Philippines and Timor Leste; three teams manager Tatsuma Yoshida should fancy his side to beat.