By Gabriel Tan
At every international tournament, players often rise to the occasion and play a starring role for their countries, emerging as national heroes in the process.
Two years ago, as Malaysia claimed their first-ever Suzuki Cup title under K. Rajagobal, the likes of Safee Sali and Safiq Rahim became household names overnight, while Muhammad Ridwan, Nguyen Vu Phong and Phil Younghusband all impressed for their respective countries.
And as the best of Southeast Asia gather once more for regional glory, we take a look at the eight players who will have a huge say on how well their teams do.
Datsakorn Thonglao (Thailand)
Datsakorn Thonglao has arguably been Thailand's best playmaker in the past few years, but for a man who has won his country's Premier League three times in the last four seasons, he is still looking to make a major impact on the international stage.
Granted, he was part of the Under-23 side that won the gold medal at the 2003 and 2005 Southeast Asian Games, but in his three previous Suzuki Cup appearances, the War Elephants were beaten finalists in 2007 and 2008 and embarrassingly fell at the group stage two years ago.
At 28, Datsakorn is gradually edging to the peak of his powers and based on his form with Muangthong United this past season, he will be one of the most in-form midfielders at the competition.
But for all his talent and experience, his desire to make amends for Thailand's past failures may just be the one thing that makes him so dangerous.
James Younghusband (Philippines)
It's almost impossible to keep the Younghusband brothers apart given they've literally been together all their lives, from the Chelsea academy to Loyola Meralco Sparks, where they currently ply their trade at.
While there's no doubt Phil Younghusband's predatory instincts in front of goal are crucial to his side's prospects, we've gone with his brother James as our man to watch for Philippines.
The older Younghusband, who is usually deployed in an advanced role on the right, is capable of whipping telling crosses into the box for his strikers to feed on, but is also adept at getting into goalscoring positions and netting himself.
The 26-year-old and his younger brother combined for 35 of Loyola's 66 goals in the 2011/12 United Football League campaign, and opposition defenders should ignore the duo at their own peril.
Le Cong Vinh (Vietnam)
There can be no denying Le Cong Vinh's hero status in Vietnam given it was he who scored the goal that handed them their first Suzuki Cup title back in 2008.
Add to that the fact that the 26-year-old is one of the few Southeast Asians to have earned a move to Europe - spending half a season at Portuguese side Leixoes - and it's clear he is one of the most-talented strikers that the Red Warriors have ever produced.
Already Vietnam's all-time top scorer with 31 goals from 52 caps, Cong Vinh heads to the regional meet after a decent season with Ha Noi and could just be the man to fire his side to victory once again.
Thiha Sithu (Myanmar)
The 2010 edition of the Suzuki Cup was one to forget for Myanmar as they finished bottom of Group B after two losses and a draw, conceding a total of nine goals in the process.
However, a majority of those came in their opening 7-1 loss to Vietnam, in which Kyaw Zin Htet had been standing between the posts for the White Angels.
In their next game against Singapore, Thiha Sithu was named in the starting XI and restricted the Lions to a 2-1 win, before starring in their final game against Philippines - a 0-0 draw - making several outstanding stops to keep the Azkals at bay.
Since then, Sithu has established himself as the number one goalkeeper both for Myanmar and club side Ayeyawady United, and while he is expected to be a busy man once again, the 24-year-old is sure to relish the opportunity to enhance his burgeoning reputation in the region.
Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (Malaysia)
While Safee and Safiq were regarded as the duo that fired Harimau Malaya to the title back in 2010, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha was an important member of that side that inexplicably escaped the public spotlight.
Two years on, with two Malaysia Super League titles and a Malaysia Cup to his name, many now acknowledge how crucial the 26-year-old is to his side's chances.
It may appear strange how a striker who only scored ten goals in all competition for Kelantan in 2012 managed to nab the Most Valuable Player award at the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) Awards - his third successive gong.
The fact of the matter is Norshahrul's game is more than just about finding the back of the net. His intelligence and technique means he is as capable of creating a goal-scoring chance as he is finishing one off, and will have a huge say on how influential his strike partner Safee is.
Wahyu Wijiastanto (Indonesia)
With the injection of fresh blood into the national side since 2010, Indonesia will have one of the youngest backlines at the Suzuki Cup in terms of international experience.
But despite having just ten caps to his name, Wahyu Wijiastanto will be the man most likely tasked with the role of marshalling the Merah Putih backline by coach Nil Maizar.
The towering centre-back has established himself as one of the steadiest defenders in the country over the past couple of seasons, first with Persiba Bantul and then with Semen Padang, who he joined earlier this year.
Given his side face Malaysia and Singapore, who have physically-imposing strikers in Safee and Aleksandar Duric to call upon respectively, Wahyu could well prove to be the difference between victory and defeat in those crucial encounters.
Hariss Harun (Singapore)
While Hariss is still only 22 and could have even made it on our list of "Young Guns", it would be slightly foolish to regard him as a rising talent given he's been playing for Singapore since 2007, when he earned his first cap aged 16.
The tireless midfielder has been touted as the next Southeast Asian footballer who could earn a move to Europe, and just had an excellent season with the LIONSXII, helping them to a runners-up finish in the Malaysia Super League.
Hariss excels at destroying play and linking up play in the middle of the park, but over the last 12 months, he has become a creative force in the final third and will be one of the most complete midfielders present at the Suzuki Cup.
Visay Phaphouvanin (Laos)
During the 2002 Tiger Cup, as the Suzuki Cup was previously known as, a 17-year-old by the name of Visay Phaphouvanin raised more than a few eyebrows when he netted in all three of Laos' Group B matches against giants Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, even though his side ultimately finished bottom of the pile.
Ten years on, the dimunitive striker is regarded as one of the best players his country has produced and he has gone on to earn 45 caps, scoring against the likes of China and Jordan in FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Phaphouvanin, who has plied his trade in the Lao League with Vientiane since 2004, is best known for his uncanny knack of taking up good positions inside the box, and his finishing rarely lets him down.
While Laos are not expected to challenge for a place in the semi-finals, their star striker is more than capable of giving their Group B opponents a few scares along the way.