Malaysia coach Ong Kim Swee was unable to hide his delight after Malaysia were placed in Group B of the AFF Suzuki Cup during the draw on Tuesday.
By being placed in Group B, Malaysia avoided facing Singapore, who have won the tournament four times, and reigning champions Thailand.
While they managed to escape facing two tough sides in the group stage, Malaysia will have to take on co-hosts Myanmar, Vietnam and a qualifier, which could be Brunei, Timor-Leste, Cambodia or Laos. The quartet will face each other in a qualifying tournament in Phnom Penh in October.
Even though the luck of the draw went Malaysia’s way, Kim Swee still sees Myanmar and Vietnam as big threats.
“On paper, we look to have a good draw. But all the countries in Southeast Asia are equally on par with each other, with the exception of Thailand. I believe Myanmar will prepare early as one of the favourites,” Kim Swee told reporters. “Vietnam are also a consistent team in the region, and these two countries will be our toughest test.”
Malaysia assistant coach Brad Maloney echoed Kim Swee’s sentiments about Vietnam and added that Harimau Malaysia should consider themselves lucky not to be going up against Singapore and Thailand.
“Vietnam are very good. I’d rate them the toughest team behind Thailand at the Suzuki Cup,” he said. “Avoiding Singapore and Indonesia in the draw is a blessing because of those friendlies planned against them before the Suzuki Cup.”
Meanwhile, Kim Swee revealed that he wants to Malaysia to reach the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup this year.
This will be a lot harder said than done though as Malaysia will be without Johor Darul Ta’zim quartet Safiq Rahim, Aidil Zafuan, Amirulhadi Zainal and S. Kunanlan as they all announced their retirements from international football.
“I hope we will be prepared better to make the tournament semifinals, with all our best players,” Kim Swee said.