The national men’s football team, Harimau Malaya, will face a daunting task in the 2020 AFF Cup as they have been drawn together with defending champions Vietnam and archrivals Indonesia in Group B.
Cambodia and Laos are also in the same group for the 13th edition of Asean’s most prestigious football championship, to be held December 5 this year to January 1 next year.
The most successful team in the championship, Thailand, will be the favourite in Group A, which includes Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and the winner of the qualification round between Brunei and Timor-Leste in a single-leg match.
The draw ceremony was virtually and streamed live in the tournament’s official YouTube channel, AFF Suzuki Cup. Only the top two teams in each group will advance to the semi-finals.
In the previous edition held in 2018, Malaysia, under the tutelage of Tan Cheng Hoe, emerged runners-up to Vietnam after losing 3-2 on aggregate in the final.
Asean Football Federation (AFF) president Major General Khiev Sameth, in his opening address, said the tournament will be played in a centralised venue this time due to the Covid-19 threat, rather than the previous home-and-away format, from the group stage till the final.
The tournament, supposed to have been held late last year, was delayed a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Malaysia emerged champions in 2010 and finished runners-up in 1996, 2014 and 2018, placing them among four nations who have won the biennial tournament, which began in 1996.
Thailand have won the title five times (1996, 2000, 2002, 2014 & 2016), followed by Singapore with four titles (1998, 2004, 2007 & 2012) and Vietnam two (2008 & 2018).
Full draw list
Qualification round: Brunei vs Timor-Leste.
Group A: Thailand, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore and winner of qualifiers.
Group B: Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos.