As the first round of the AFF Suzuki Cup group stages comes to a close, all teams have played at least one match and they now have a clearer perspective of their immediate goals if they wish to go far in the tournament.
We’ve had incredible action so far, with thumping victories like Thailand’s 7-0 victory over Timor-Leste to close battles like the Philippines’ tough 1-0 triumph over rivals Singapore.
Incredibly, in the first eight matches to be played, none have ended in draws which shows just how important the Suzuki Cup is for the competing countries.
Of course, with results like these, there will always be standout players and early in the competition, we take a look at the best XI so far in the AFF Suzuki Cup.
We’re using a standard 4-4-2 formation in this case.
HASSAN SUNNY (Singapore)
While there are still three teams that have clean sheets, none of them were really troubled as Thailand cruised past Timor-Leste, Vietnam’s defence had little to do against Laos and Singapore’s attack ultimately failed to really test Philippines in their recent match.
With that in mind, Hassan Sunny’s two outings in the AFF Suzuki Cup should be praised as he was impressive in his two appearances in the competition so far.
In the 1-0 win over Indonesia, Hassan Sunny was confident in his decision-making as he was able to charge off his line when needed to help stop any counter-attack.
Against the Philippines, he put on another good performance as he made impressive saves throughout the game. Unfortunately, the scramble which led to the Azkals’ goal was something Hassan Sunny could not avoid and it eventually cost them.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Neil Etheridge (Philippines), Sivarak Tedsungnoen (Thailand), Dang Van Lam (Vietnam)
LB – MARTIN STEUBLE (Philippines)
In their first game of the campaign, there were many question marks on the quality that the Philippines would bring on the pitch. They looked good on paper with some famous names but that does not always translate on the pitch.
However, their stout defensive presence was evident as they were able to stifle Singapore at home. Martin Steuble was confident when on defensive duties but was also equally threatening when he made his way on to the attacking half.
At one point, Steuble had a beautiful cross that was not converted to a goal but it showed just how involved he was in the contest.
With the match being physical and straining at times, Steuble looked at home and impressive.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: David Htan (Myanmar), Doan Van Hau (Vietnam), Korakod Wiriyaudomsiri (Thailand)
CBs – SAFUWAN BAHARUDIN (Singapore) & FACHRUDIN WAHYUDI ARYANTO (Indonesia)
The AFF Suzuki Cup has been a revelation so far in the early stages, with teams considered as heavy underdogs giving the contenders a few challenges. However, Fachrudin Wahyudi Aryanto of Indonesia and Safuwan Baharudin of Singapore have been steady throughout their appearances.
Safuwan Baharudin played great in their win over Indonesia as he was in command in set-pieces and played excellent throughout. Despite the loss against the Philippines, he was still arguably the best player for Singapore as he was threatening in both defence and while attacking.
Meanwhile, Fachrudin Wahyudi Aryanto earned his starting role in their second game against Timor-Leste and put on an impressive performance. Despite surrendering the lead at one point, he remained calm and challenged the surprising Timor-Leste squad. He came on as a substitute in the loss against Singapore but may likely start moving forward.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Dinh Trong Tran (Vietnam), IRFAN FANDI (Singapore), Hansamu Yama Pranata (Indonesia)
RB – ZULQARNAEN SUZLIMAN (Singapore)
Another Singapore player gets chosen as Zulqarnaen Suzliman has put on two solid performances so far in the AFF Suzuki Cup.
Against Indonesia, he was effective in nullifying the threat from the wing and thrashed most attempts from their rivals to mount an attack from his side. Even his fouling was effective as it was not done hastily and it helped stop any momentum the Indonesians seemed to mount.
The same could be said for much of the match against the Philippines as Zulqarnaen Suzliman was stout in stopping any potential attack and could not do anything to stop the strike that gave the Philippines the win.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Syahmi Safari (Malaysia), Philip Roller (Thailand), David Htan (Myanmar)
RW – ANDIK VERMANSYAH (Indonesia)
He was unused in their first AFF Suzuki Cup match against Singapore, but Andik Vermansyah made sure he did all he could when he was started against Timor-Leste.
A complete game, especially in the second half, Timor-Leste could not manage him when they were mounting a comeback. He provided the assist in the opening goal for Indonesia and then won the penalty which resulted in them getting the lead in the game.
While him being present in the first game may have changed the game, his performance against Timor-Leste may likely result in him being a starter in their next contest.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Nguyen Trong Hoang (Vietnam), Mohamadou Sumareh (Malaysia), Muhammad Yasir Hanapi (Singapore)
CMs – HLAING BO BO (Myanmar) & SANRAWAT DECHMITR (Thailand)
In his lone appearance so far in the AFF Suzuki Cup, Hlaing Bo Bo of Myanmar quickly displayed his quality by scoring a brace. He was spectacular through the match and did more than just score goals. He was pivotal in keeping possession and controlling the game’s pace.
While Hlaing Bo Bo scored goals, Sanrawat Dechmitr of Thailand deserves just as much praise as he was flawless in Thailand’s dismantling of Timor-Leste. He put on a man-of-the-match type of performance but was overlooked only because of six goals from a teammate. His assists were key and passing was exquisite.
Both players were stars in their respective games and resulted in big wins for their nations.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Nguyen Quang Hai (Vietnam), Hariss Harun (Singapore), Manuel Ott (Philippines)
LW – NGUYEN CONG PHUONG (Vietnam)
Getting your name on the score sheet is a good way to have a good game and Nguyen Cong Phuong did exactly that for Vietnam.
He only needed 11 minutes to break the deadlock with a shot that turned the tide to their favour and the Vietnamese ultimately never looked back.
In a 3-0 victory, he was largely threatening and their opponents had a tough time predicting what he would do next.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Stephan Schröck (Philippines), Safawi Rasid (Malaysia), Muhammad Yasir Hanapi (Singapore)
ADISAK KRAISORN (Thailand) & NORSHAHRUL IDLAN TALAHA (Malaysia)
One of the main objectives of strikers is to put the ball beyond the keeper to score and that’s exactly what Adisak Kraisorn of Thailand and Norshahrul Idlan Talaha of Malaysia did.
The top two scorers of the competition, they have left their opponents out to dry as they dominated the games.
Adisak Kraisorn should be given special mention as he thrashed Timor-Leste with six incredible goals inside one hour! Their opponents could not contain him as he scored as early as the third minute.
Meanwhile, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha scored Malaysia’s only goal in their tournament opener but went on to break Laos’ hearts with a brace late in the game to give them the 3-1 victory.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Patrick Reichelt (Philippines), Supachai Jaided (Thailand), Nguyen Anh Duc (Vietnam)