Navigate

AFF Suzuki Cup 2014: Get to know the teams!

Sports

AFF Suzuki Cup 2014: Get to know the teams!

As defending champion Singapore prepares to host the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup, learn more about our own squad, as well as the competitors that stand in our way to a fifth title.

Suzuki Cup 2014 Singapore fans

Passionate fans showing their support by waving their country's flag in the stands (photo credit: SportSG)

By Nicolette Mok

The year looks set to end on an exhilarating note for football fans in Singapore.

When the biennial AFF Suzuki Cup arrives on our shores in late November, we will be treated to an influx of Southeast Asia’s football elites. Following our triumph in 2012, Singapore will play host to three out of eight teams, all ready to wrest the championship from our grasp.

The region’s football faithful bore witness to several eventful matches in the previous edition, and Singapore’s victory was not earned without a fight. A number of tournament heroes emerged from the other teams as well, including Myanmar’s Kyi Lin and Thailand’s Teerasil Dangda. Although the former’s team failed to make it past the group stages, his powerful performance did not go unnoticed. Three goals during qualification and one equaliser, Myanmar’s only goal at the championship, was sufficient for Kyi Lin to be named in the AFF Best XI at the inaugural AFF Awards that year. Dangda, too, showcased his superior scoring abilities, carrying his team to the finals. His five goals eventually won him the tournament’s Golden Boot as well as a Best Goal award.

Suzuki Cup 2014 Teerasil Dangda

Thailand star Teerasil Dangda will be one to watch (image credit: Shutterstock.com)

However, it was the eventual champions that produced the most memorable showdowns. Lifting the cup for a record fourth time, Singapore was led by Radjoko “Raddy” Avramović, who also earned the honour of being the most accomplished coach in tournament history, winning the trophy for the third time. Veteran striker Aleksandar Đurić, in his final match for Singapore, also became the oldest goal-scorer since the inception of the tournament. Not to be outdone, Most Valuable Player and Lions captain Shahril Ishak wowed the crowds with a total of four goals, second only to Dangda’s five, while Baihakki Khaizan helped seal Singapore’s victory with a crucial goal during the first leg of the finals in front of a hostile Thai crowd.

With several changes to the various teams’ line-ups and coaching personnel, it is certainly too early to make accurate predictions on who will take home the coveted cup in 2014. Let’s take a quick look at the teams poised to put up a valiant battle for the title.

Indonesia

Traditionally a very strong team, having made it to the finals four times, Indonesia failed to make it out of the group stages in 2012, but they might put up a decent fight this year. A team blessed with skillful players led by Alfred Riedl, Indonesia has picked up a good run of victories against their ASEAN neighbours over the last few months, so they will be aiming to better last year’s showing.

Players to look out for:
Having trained alongside big names such as Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, and Robin van Persie in his youth, Dutch-born Raphael Maitimo played on the Netherlands youth team before making his debut as an Indonesian player at the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup. There’s also Irfan Bachdim, a former member of Dutch football team FC Utrecht. While the media darling may have charming good looks and many brand endorsements to his name, his expertise on the field is similarly enchanting.

Laos

Despite having qualified for the group stages in every single AFF tournament to date, Laos are traditionally minnows in the competition. The bulk of their squad for the competition was born after 1990, but they will be hoping for a spirited showing in Singapore this time round.

Players to look out for:
AFF Suzuki Cup 2012 Youth Player of the Year nominee and rising star Keoviengphet Liththideth scored two goals during the previous championships, despite being a mere teenager then. This year, with an additional two years of experience and training under his belt, the Laotian team will be counting on Liththideth to take them further.

Malaysia

Suzuki Cup 2014 Malaysia 

image credit: Shutterstock.com 


Malaysia managed to make it to the semi-finals in 2012, but eventually lost out on a spot in the final two despite some exceptional performances by the team. With former national star Dollah Salleh at the helm this year, the 2010 champions will be hoping the outstanding scoring abilities from his heyday will rub off on them when they are contesting in Singapore.

Players to look out for:
M-League star and top striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha will be an asset to the team, having scored in every AFF Cup that he’s played in. Should he fully recover his form and flair, one can certainly expect an intimidating performance from the Tigers. There is also 22-year-old Gary Robbat, a budding talent with lots of potential. He gained the attention and praise of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, while playing for Malaysia in a friendly match against the Premier League club.

Myanmar

Suzuki Cup 2014 Myanmar 

image credit: Shutterstock.com 


Myanmar does seem to be the championship’s whipping boys, but the trump card that they unveiled earlier this year may well be their key to better days. Fresh from his glorious run with the Singapore team, Serbian coach Avramović has taken over the reins at Myanmar. Our home crowd can surely look forward to an exciting match when the Lions meet this up-and-coming team at the Singapore Sports Hub this year.

Players to look out for:
Apart from 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup star Kyi Lin, who also won Goal.com’s Readers’ Choice AFF Player of the Year, this year’s team also sees upstart Zaw Min Tun ready to take the stage. At just 22, he has already earned many accolades to his name. These include the title of first runner up for the Myanmar National League 2013 Best Player award, a bronze medal in the 2011 SEA Games, as well as a record transfer deal worth 120 million kyats that saw him leaving Magway FC for Yadanarbon FC.

Thailand

Suzuki Cup 2014 Thailand 

image credit: Shutterstock.com 


Second only to Singapore in their AFF Cup successes, Thailand is a tournament hot favourite, having secured three championships, as well as three first runner-up titles. This year, they have the added advantage of home favourite and former star striker Kiatisuk “Zico” Senamuang as their coach. Having played for the team during all three of its championship wins and also led the nation’s U23 team to a gold medal at the 2013 SEA Games, Kiatisuk has sufficient experience to ensure the Changsuks will be a force to be reckoned with.

Players to look out for:
Of course, we have team hero Teerasil Dangda, who currently plays for Spanish La Liga team Almeria, having previously trained with Champions League finalist Atlético Madrid. Charyl Chappuis, of Swiss and Thai descent, has had varied international experience despite his young age, representing both the Swiss and Thai youth national teams before. In fact, he was part of the Switzerland U17 team that won the FIFA U17 World Cup and also the Thailand U23 team that won at the 2013 SEA Games.

The Philippines

Suzuki Cup 2014 Philippines 

image credit: Shutterstock.com 


Another powerhouse team, the Philippines contested the semi-finals in both 2010 and 2012. Boasting talents with English league experience, the Philippines has put together a very strong side, and is poised to shine under the leadership of coach Thomas Dooley, former captain of the USA national team.

Players to look out for:

Suzuki Cup 2014 Younghusband 

image credit: Shutterstock.com 

James and Philip Younghusband are adored by their country not just for their striking looks, but also for their fine footwork. Hailing from the English town of Surrey, the brothers trained with Chelsea FC’s youth and reserve teams before being called up to play for their mother’s home nation. Philip also won a Golden Boot in the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup. Another English-Filipino and Chelsea Academy alumnus, Neil Etheridge played for Fulham FC and the English U16 national team. The expertise of these star players will indeed be valuable to the Azkals in the tournament.

Vietnam

Suzuki Cup 2014 Vietnam 

image credit: Shutterstock.com 


2008 champions Vietnam might appear to be on the decline, after failing to make it to the semi-finals during the last tournament. However, the experienced team may see a change in their prospects this year with the induction of new coach Toshiya Miura, who has managed various J-League teams.

Players to look out for:
Striker Le Cong Vinh, who scored the crucial goal that earned Vietnam the 2008 AFF Cup, headlines the list of players who will be fighting for Vietnam’s hopes this year. He is also the proud three-time winner of the Vietnamese Golden Ball Best Footballer of the Year - the most prestigious award in Vietnamese football. 

Singapore

Suzuki Cup 2014 Singapore team
Singapore celebrate a goal in the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup Final against Thailand (photo credit: SportSG)

It may seem that the other teams have what it takes to knock Singapore off the podium this year, but our track record and line-up isn’t shabby either. As the record-holding four-time champion, the Lions are ready to battle their way to a fifth regional title. Singapore welcomes a new coach this year, Bernd Stange from Germany, who has managed various teams across Europe.

Players to look out for:
Fresh from his win as the 2014 S-League Player of the Year, and also the first ever goalkeeper to be bestowed that honour, Hassan Sunny is definitely one of the stars to watch out for. Versatile man Safuwan Baharudin is also more than capable of scoring spectacular goals, despite being a defender. He was awarded the 2013 Straits Times Athlete of the Year, edging out other nominees that included swimming’s golden boy Joseph Schooling. Breaking football hero Fandi Ahmad’s record by becoming the youngest international at 16, Hariss Harun rejected a move to Portuguese side Rio Ave, and is now playing for Johor Darul Takzim in the Malaysian Super League. 

With such a competent line-up in place this year, the Singapore team surely has the potential to retain their title. Yet, it would not do us good to rest on our laurels, especially with the presence of such worthy competitors. Our beloved Lions are going to need all the support that they can get in order to successfully defend the AFF Suzuki Cup on home soil, so get your tickets to watch them live now!

Purchase your tickets to catch the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup LIVE! 

Purchase your tickets for matches held at the Singapore Sports Hub here.

For Jalan Besar Stadium matches, purchase your tickets here.

Interested in football and want to hone your skills with the best? Or perhaps you are a parent wishing to expose your child to the beautiful game?

If your answer to either of the above is yes, then ActiveSG Football Academy is the place for you to be at. Led by former Singapore international Aleksandar Duric, and five head coaches with experience from the highest level of football in Singapore: Richard Bok, Robin Chitrakar, Hyrizan Jufri, Mohamad Hairil Amin, Isa Halim, and Steven Tan, ActiveSG Football Academy has a holistic football programme designed to build character and impart the right skills while encouraging trainees to pursue their sporting passion with the right attitude.

To find out more or sign up for the academy, visit this link here.