Baihakki: Thais, Azkals strong but don’t rule out Singapore for AFF Cup

Kelvin Leong Kelvin Leong

Singapore veteran defender Baihakki Khaizan has warned against ruling the Lions out from a fifth AFF Suzuki Cup title come November.

The biennial tournament is the showpiece of Southeast Asian football and top honours revolve around Thailand and Singapore who have won it nine times.

The two countries have been drawn into Group B for the 2018 edition along with Indonesia, Philippines and either Brunei or Timor Leste. Group A comprises Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.

While defending champions Thailand have gone from strength to strength in recent times, Singapore have fallen down the pecking order and did not even make it out of the group stage in the previous two editions.

Head Coach V. Sundram Moorthy’s abrupt resignation last month has thrown an even bigger spanner to the works and Baihakki concedes that the neighbouring countries have all improved as a whole.

“Yes we know Thailand are defending champions and there is no argument that they are the top side in ASEAN now,” Baihakki told FOX Sports Asia.

“But it is not only them that have improved. You look at the Philippines who have so many good players like the Younghusband brothers and then Vietnam and Indonesia who are definitely building a squad to challenge for trophies in the next few years.

Despite the Lions’ obvious shortcomings, the three-time Suzuki Cup winner is adamant that the Republic still have a chance to make things right with a blend of youth and experience.

The Lions are likely to go into this tournament with Fandi Ahmad at the helm although there are rumours of European names like Arsenal legend Tony Adams and Dave Jones throwing their names in the hat.

He added: “We are now in the process of changing coaches but whoever comes in will need to be allowed to show what they can bring to the table.

“At the end of the day, it is also up to us players to fight for the country and show that we are up for it. Whoever gets selected to play in this tournament must go in knowing that it is pride for Singapore we are playing for.

“It has always been an honour for me every time I pull on the national team jersey and on a personal note, I am focused on doing my best with Udon Thani and if the call comes for Suzuki Cup, I am ready to do the job.”