With almost two months remaining before the biennial regional spectacle, the ASEAN teams are utilising the international break to a maximum with busy schedules for international friendlies and training camps in place for the upcoming AFF Suzuki Cup.
As the qualifiers for the regional tournament wraps up with Timor Leste securing the final spot for the group stages, the other qualified nations had a taste of competitive matches in the duration of the international break. We look at how these teams performed in their recent friendly matches and the takeaways from it.
With the new regime on the rise for the Lions, Singapore came into their friendly match against Mauritius with pure hope under the reigns of their new coach Fandi Ahmad. He went onto field an experimental squad where he opted to start Izwan Mahbud on goal instead of an established Hassan Sunny. He also looked into the young guns of the Lions but the veterans still proved to be the difference.
With the infusion of Shahril Ishak and Kaihrul Amri late into the match, a more balanced Singapore side pushed Mauritius to its limits making way for Ikhsan Fandi scoring against them. Moreover, it was Fandi’s first international goal in his first international cap as well. Surely enough, he did not disappoint his father.
The game saw the inclusion of brothers Zulqarnaen and Zulfadhmi Suzliman into the lineup who made a lot of promise as well during the match. After all, a 1-1 draw with Mauritius is not a bad thing at all for a rebuilding Lions squad who shows a lot of promise heading into the Suzuki Cup.
FT: SIN 🇸🇬 1 – 1 🇲🇺 MRI
Singapore bounce back in the second half to record a draw against Mauritius in an international friendly at Bishan Stadium in Singapore!
— AFC (@theafcdotcom) September 7, 2018
Playing away from home, Malaysia got off on the wrong foot for their AFF Suzuki Cup preparation as they fall into the hands of Chinese Taipei. The Taiwanese side scored two past the Malaysians who looked a bit limp in terms of their performance.
One aspect of the match that could’ve affected the style of play for Malaysia is the condition of the pitch. After a heavy rain, the pitch was soaking wet which made it hard for the Malaysians to build some play from the side forcing them to take middle route.
An early goal in the 13th minute saw Malaysia failing to cover any poachers from Chinese Taipei as Wu Chun-Ching punished them on the rebound. Tan Cheng Hoe looked for someone he could use to turn things around for the Tigers through Akhyar Rasid but he, too, failed to convert his chances leading them to lose their second match in 2018.
FT: TPE 2 – 0 🇲🇾 MAS
Chinese Taipei defeated Malaysia in an international friendly at the Taipei Municipal Stadium!
📸: CTFA pic.twitter.com/tl9DeBsoGq
— AFC (@theafcdotcom) September 7, 2018
Another side who saw a rotation in the management, the Philippine Azkals flew to Bahrain for their training camp under the helm of newly-appointed coach Scott Cooper. With a lot of promise under his belt, they faced a tough Bahrain in their international friendly which saw them share the spoils after a late goal from Bahrain.
— The Philippine Azkals (@TheAzkalsPH) September 7, 2018
The game saw Phil Younghusband netting his 51st international goal as well as the infusion of a returning Stephan Schrock who, as he always does, bossed around the midfield providing chances for his mates up front. It was a promising outing for the Azkals as we saw a much thorough play among the team.
Playing short passes in the middle of the pitch before sending a long ball to their streaking strikers up front gave the a lot of opportunity to score. Giving credit where is due, Cooper turned the possession game of the Azkals into a more of an attacking one which could see them glory into the upcoming Suzuki Cup.
Being laid off for almost six months, Laos will be back on the pitch to play against a much stronger United Arab Emirates away from home. Any result they will be taking home after this match will be welcome for Laos as this is their first tough test towards the Suzuki Cup. Another boost that they will be looking for is the upcoming Bangabandhu Gold Cup in Bangladesh where they were invitied alongside Nepal, Palestine, Philippines and Tajikistan which will commence in October 1st.
BANGABANDHU GOLD CUP 2018
OCTOBER 01-12 | DHAKA – SYLHET
BANGLADESH | LAOS | NEPAL | PALESTINE | PHILIPPINES | TAJIKISTAN pic.twitter.com/dgcEfIEdDC
— ksportsbd (@ksportsbd) September 3, 2018
Since their last friendlies in March, Laos hasn’t one a single game in 2018 as they fell to Cambodia one goal to nil and splitting points with Bangladesh in a 2-2 stalemate. Should they win or draw with UAE in their upcoming friendly, it’ll be a big boost to the confidence of Laos as they are deemed one of the dark horses of the tournament.
The attention of the region shifted towards Cambodia when they appointed Japanese star Keisuke Honda as their general manager heading into the Suzuki Cup. Honda signed a two-year deal with Cambodia and promised not to earn any salary from it as he’d still be playing with A-League side Melbourne Victory.
Although it might seem to be unclear on how Honda will manage the squad, he did mention that he will be doing a video conference once a week with the team and his coaching staff and will be made available whenever the international break comes in.
Pictures from Monday’s training session with new manager Keisuke Honda 🇰🇭
— Cambodia National Football Team (@CambodiaNFT) September 8, 2018
They first task upon the arrival of Honda will be facing Malaysia at home before facing Singapore in the next international break. What does the future hold for Cambodia will only be up to Honda and the rest of Cambodia to answer. Honda said he wanted to help the Cambodian team to play one style of football and promote the country to the outside world.