Like every major tournament, there are some major names missing from the AFF Suzuki Cup for various reasons. FOX Sports Asia looks at some of the biggest.
Safiq Rahim (Malaysia)
The top scorer of the 2014 tournament is arguably the best player in Malaysia. Safiq has been consistently excellent for Johor Darul Tazim in recent years, helping the team to the last three Malaysia Super League titles and the 2015 AFC Cup.
Intelligent, technically top-notch with an eye for goal and as assist, the midfielder ‘retired’ from the international scene in July, along with three other JDT players. Of that quartet, he will be missed the most. No team in South-east Asia would happily lose their captain and best player and it has left coach Ong Kim Swee with a massive hole to fill.
Despite all Malaysia’s troubles, with Safiq there is always a chance. Without him? It looks a little grim.
Diasuke Sato (Philippines)
The Japanese-born defender will not be released by his Romanian club. That provides coach Thomas Dooley with a headache. Sato is not only an accomplished full-back but possesses the tactical and positional nous to play elsewhere.
His performance as a centre-back in the recent friendly win over Kyrgyzstan demonstrated his worth to the team. Not the biggest in terms of physical stature, Sato played jn the middle like he had been doing so for years. The backline, not the Azkals’ strongest department, will be the worse off.
Irfan Bachdim (Indonesia)
This could have been the winger’s time to really make a continental name for himself. Irfan has been the golden boy of Indonesian football for a few years now, helped by good looks, his Ajax background and exciting play, this tournament was going to be the one where he showed the region what he was capable of.
Just a few days before the big kick-off, a fracture was found on the player’s fibula after training. It is not only a big blow for the 28 year-old who is at his peak but it also a setback for coach Alfred Riedl.
Tran Dinh Hoang (Vietnam)
The 24 year-old has established himself as an assured and versatile defender for the Golden Stars since making his debut in 2013. Can play as a right or left-back and even in the middle if necessary, Dinh Hoang reads the game well and never stops working. There are alternatives for Vietnam but losing the Song Lam Nghe An FC star is a blow.
Adisak Kraisom (Thailand)
The Muangthong United striker does not get the headlines, and quite as many goals, as club and national team-mate Teerasil Dangda but he is still a vital part of coach Kiatisuk Senamuang’s squad.Well, he was until injury struck.
A consistent goalscorer for both club and country and always composed in the opponent’s penalty area, the 25 year-old has been quietly developing into a fine all-round attacker. It adds to more pressure for Teerasil and, perhaps, a little less stress for opposition defenders.
Fazrul Nawaz (Singapore)
The veteran striker missed the 2008 AFF Suzuki Cup through injury and will suffer the same fate in 2016 after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in August. The worry was there on the face of coach V Sundramoorthy, watching from the sidelines as Fazrul was carried off, for all to see.
His experience and ability to bring others into the game will count against the Lions as they seek to get out of a tough group.
Narabudin Weerawatnodom (Thailand)
The young right-back has established himself as the number one choice for coach Kiatisuk Senamuang but the recurrence of a shoulder injury has cost him a place in the Philippines. His energy and surges forward will be missed but the hope is that the champions can defend their title without the Buriram United man.
Kyaw Ko Ko (Myanmar)
It was a big call of Gerd Zeise to send Kyaw home from a recent training camp, supposedly for disciplinary reasons. Kyaw has been the country’s biggest goalscoring threat for some time and Zeise’s tenure and perhaps Myanmar’s entire AFF Suzuki Cup will rest on whether the decision was the right one or not. Kaung Sat Naing is the replacement and has plenty of responsibility on his shoulders.
Javier Patino (Philippines)
Another victim of club commitments, Patino is another big loss for the Philippines. This is a striker who scores goals in the Chinese Super League for Henan Jianye. Mobile, intelligent with an ability to create something from nothing, the northern club was not prepared to let one of its star assets run the risk of injury in the close season.
His absence will be keenly felt by the Azkals. There are not too many top class strikers in the tournament but the Spanish-born star would have been one.
S Kunalan (Malaysia)
The right-back, like Safiq, also retired from the international scene in the summer. This is a right-back who gets forward whenever he can to deliver dangerous balls into the area and has been impressively consistent for JDT this season, barely putting a foot wrong. Can also play further up the pitch and even on the left. Matthew Davies is a good replacement for the Tigers but Kunalan is class.