The group stages of any tournament usually throw up a few surprises and the AFF Suzuki Cup is guaranteed to see the odd upset or two. FOX Sports Asia takes a look at some of the crucial fixtures that could decide the final standings in Groups A and B.
Thailand vs Indonesia
The opening match of a tournament is always a big occasion as teams like to stamp their authority on the tournament and get off to a good start, and this match promises to be no different.
Pre-tournament favourites Thailand will face Indonesia, who come into the Suzuki Cup as somewhat of a mystery package following their almost two-year exile from international football following a FIFA ban.
Thailand are defending champions so naturally will want to get their title defence off to a good start, while the Red and Whites will be out to prove a point as they are still looking to claim their first AFF title, so expect a fiercely contested tie. The key to the match is likely to be whether Indonesia’s midfield prodigy Evan Dimas can outshine Thailand’s 2014 Suzuki Cup MVP Chanathip Songkrasin.
Philippines vs Singapore
If the Azkals are serious about claiming their first regional crown, then they will need to win their opener against a Singapore team that is arguably the weakest team in the group. This will set them up for tougher games against Thailand and Indonesia.
Singapore, meanwhile, will want to show that they are not in Manila just to make up the numbers. Their form has been patchy, but the team still contains some quality. If they can grab an early win it could have a galvanising effect on the squad and spur them onto better things.
Goals have been the Lions’ problem in recent times so their forwards will need to take advantage of a Filipino backline stripped of experience through injury and retirements if they are to take the three points in this tie.
— AFF Suzuki Cup (@affsuzukicup) October 25, 2016
Indonesia vs Philippines
If Thailand play to their potential and sweep all before them, then this game could hold the key to who finishes second in Group A and progresses to the semifinals.
The Philippines may need to win to ensure maximum points ahead of their final group game with the War Elephants, while Indonesia may be looking to put some points on the board should they suffer defeat in their opening match up with the reigning champs.
With such a fine line between qualification and an early trip home, this game is sure to be a tense affair.
Malaysia vs Cambodia
The Tigers are at a low point with coach Ong Kim Swee struggling to manage the fallout of a club-versus-country dispute that has stripped him of a wealth of talent. Contrast this with Cambodia, who come into the tournament in a buoyant mood after three well-deserved wins in qualifying on the back of some outstanding forward play by star striker Chan Vathanaka and co. They will be hoping to extend that run and the wounded Tigers present them with an early chance for a win.
Ong has been working busily to shore up Malaysia’s leaky defence after some embarrassing defeats and it has started to pay dividends. Whether the Tigers can stop Vathanaka will prove key to avoiding a costly defeat in this crucial opening tie.
Myanmar vs Vietnam
Hosts Myanmar face a tough first game against Group B’s strongest team in Vietnam. Under pressure to perform well as hosts, Gerd Zeise and his young team will have to hit the ground running to match the Golden Stars, who will be hoping to win the tournament for a second time.
The White Angels team spirit will be crucial if they are to stop the prolific Le Cong Vinh and his teammates and get their tournament off to a positive start.
— AFF Suzuki Cup (@affsuzukicup) November 2, 2016
Myanmar vs Malaysia
Depending on how earlier results pan out, this could be a crucial game for Myanmar if they are to progress from the group stage. A game against the weakest Malaysia side in many years could be just the tonic for the hosts if they find themselves needing a win to progress.
With games against Cambodia and the Tigers, Zeise’s men will need to take full advantage if they are to make the knockout stage of the tournament for just the second time in their history.