The AFF Suzuki Cup is a biennial football competition organised by the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF), accredited by FIFA and contested by the national teams of Southeast Asia.
A total of 10 teams will vie for the AFF Suzuki Cup trophy from November 8 to December 15, 2018. The winner of the play-off between Brunei Darussalam and Timor Leste will join nine other ASEAN countries - holders Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos - to make up the final field of 10 nations.
The play-off will be held from September 3 to 11, 2018 and will be decided over two legs, one in Brunei Darussalam and one in Timor Leste, for the last remaining spot in the tournament proper.
At the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup, a new format will be applied. The 10 qualified teams will be split in two groups of five and play a round robin system with each team playing two home and two away fixtures. The draw on May 2, 2018 will determine where the teams play.
The format of the knockout round remains unchanged, with semi-finals and final played on a home and away format, and the tournament’s climax set for December 15.
With the upcoming AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 Official Draw now just days away, to be held in Jakarta on May 2, we spoke to two ASEAN experts to get their thoughts on the draw and how they see things potentially playing out.
Gabriel Tan (@gabetan13) is the football editor at FOX Sports Asia, while Cedelf Tupas (@cedelfptinq) is a sports journalist for Philippine Daily Inquirer.
The format of the tournament has changed this year, with the teams playing two matches at home and two matches away – how do you think those changes will impact the competition?
Tupas: I think the new format sets everyone up for a more exciting, competitive tournament. With all teams hosting at least two matches in the group stage, there’s equal opportunity for everyone to advance to the semi-finals with the lower-rated teams banking on its own crowd. The impact of the home support in the Suzuki Cup cannot be overstated as it gives teams an extra push.
Tan: I think the change is an interesting one. Obviously, it adds a certain degree of excitement because fans are guaranteed at least two home games so everyone in the region will get to experience AFF Suzuki Cup action in one way or another.
With that format change in mind, which do you think is the most difficult away trip and why?
Tupas: From the Philippines’ point of view, travel wise, Timor Leste, should it qualify can be a tricky test as there are no direct flights from Manila going there and the same could be said with Myanmar and Cambodia. Bangkok may be a quick three-hour flight, but the Philippines has never won against Thailand in the competition. Indonesia will also be a difficult away trip just because their stadium transforms into a cauldron with every home game, making it tough for visiting teams to get results.
Tan: In terms of pure footballing quality, no one would like to have to face Thailand at their best – home or away. But if we’re talking about making a trip to a ground where the home fans could really make a massive difference, I think we’ve seen already in the AFC Cup this season that Indonesia’s Gelora Bung Karno would be quite the hostile atmosphere!
Which teams would you like to see matched up in the group stage?
Tupas: Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia and the winner of the playoff between Brunei and Timor Leste. I prefer to get Thailand in the group stage to avoid them in the semi-finals, should the Philippines qualify. With this group, it may end up as a virtual knockout game between Malaysia and the Philippines. I like the Azkals’ chances in this match-up particularly if the duel is at home.
Tan: There’s bound to be some mouthwatering ties thrown up. Having said that, Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, Singapore and Laos would be quite the Group of Death.
Philippines midfielder Iain Ramsay has claimed that Thailand are his country’s main rivals ahead of the AFF Suzuki Cup draw in Jakarta on May 2.
Australia-born Ramsay made his debut for the Philippines in 2015 and got his first taste of Suzuki Cup action a year later when the Azkals narrowly missed out on qualifying for the semi-finals.
With the group stage draw for the 2018 edition set to take place in the Indonesian capital in a matter of days, the Felda United man has earmarked Thailand, who claimed a 1-0 win over the Philippines in 2016, as the biggest obstacle at the regional tournament.
“It will be interesting to see who we are drawn against in the group stage, but there is no team in particular that we want to avoid,” insisted Ramsay, who moved to Malaysia’s Felda United from Ceres Negros in the Philippines at the beginning of the year.
“I’d say Thailand are our biggest rivals in the region. The Philippines have been so close to the final in the past and Thailand have been the wall that’s prevented us getting there.
“Our goal will be simply to win the group and advance to the next stage. But it’s a great opportunity this year for us to get the better of them.”
Tournament minnows in the early years of the Suzuki Cup, the Philippines have shown marked improvement since 2010, from when they have reached the semi-finals on three successive occasions until exiting at the group stage in 2016.
Not only have the side been on the up regionally, but also on the continent as the Azkals were undefeated in the third round of AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 qualifiers to advance to the tournament for the first time.
“Qualifying for the Asian Cup has shown that the national team is on the rise. It has instilled a lot of confidence in our team and I believe we can go a long way in the Suzuki Cup,” added Ramsay.
“We are definitely looking forward to it as we are in a really good place right now and we are hungry for success.”
The upcoming edition of the competition features some changes from recent years as the group stage will see teams play two matches at home and two away, rather than it being staged in a centralised location.
Thailand and Malaysia are potential group stage opponents for the Philippines, meaning Ramsay could be handed the opportunity to take on his stated rivals and face a number of his club teammates in what would be an intriguing draw for the 30-year-old.
“It’s great that the format has changed as it keeps the Suzuki Cup exciting and interesting for fans and players,” he admitted.
“It would definitely be great to play against Malaysia as it would make for an exciting match and it would be nice to come up against some familiar faces.
“Playing against my Felda teammate Wan Zack would be a nice moment for both of us.”
13 October 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 Kicks-Off Next Month; Pana-Ad Stadium To Host Group Stage Matches
With only a month before the Philippines begin their campaign for regional supremacy, expectations are on a high with 4 quality and exciting matches to be played in a bid to claim the title of ASEAN champions.
Sporting a new tournament format, the AFF Suzuki Cup will bring thrilling football to all fans with the Philippines hosting two home matches in the group stages.
The Philippine Men’s National Team path will be a tough one however as it will face familiar foes Singapore, Timor Leste, Thailand, and Indonesia in Group B. With the exception of Timor Leste, the Philippines will face the same teams it had faced in 2016 when Manila hosted the group stages.
The Pana-ad Park and Football Stadium in Bacolod, Negros Occidental will host the Philippines against Singapore on 13 November and Thailand on 21 November 2018. This will be the first time that the Pana-ad Park and Football Stadium will host the Suzuki Cup final round after hosting the ASEAN Football Championship Qualifiers back in 2006.
“The AFF Suzuki Cup makes its return to the Pana-ad Park and Football Stadium in Bacolod City,” said PFF president Mariano Araneta Jr. “It (the AFF Suzuki Cup) holds a special place to all Philippine football fans. We invite all football stakeholders and more importantly, the fans to support the Men’s National Team in their home matches.”
The away match against Timor Leste will be held on 17 November 2018 at the Kuala Lumpur Stadium in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia while the match against Indonesia will be held on 25 November 2018 at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Senayan, Jakarta, Indonesia.
Currently, the team is preparing for the tournament. The team recently participated in the Bangabandhu Gold Cup International Football Tournament 2018 where the Philippines finished as semifinalists. A FIFA International Friendly Match against Oman is set on 13 October 2018, 6:30 PM local time (11:30 PM Manila time) at the Al Gharafa Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar.
Philippines MNT Matches in the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 Date No. Match Kick-Off Venue 13 November 2018 8 Philippines vs Singapore 7:30 PM Pana-ad Park and Football Stadium 17 November 2018 11 Timor Leste vs Philippines 8:00 PM Kuala Lumpur Football Stadium 21 November 2018 15 Philippines vs Thailand 7:30 PM Pana-ad Park and Football Stadium 25 November 2018 20 Indonesia vs Philippines 7:00 PM* Gelora Bung Karno Stadium
*(8:00 PM Manila time) Match tickets for the home matches against Singapore and Thailand will be sold via SM Tickets starting Monday 15 October 2018 at 2:00 PM. The purchased tickets must be swapped for the actual match ticket to enter the stadium. Details for ticket swapping will be announced soon.
Ticket Prices – AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 Home Matches(Philippines vs Singapore and Philippines vs Thailand)
Category Sections Price 1 Grandstand VIP, Grandstand B, Grandstand D, Grandstand E P400.00 2 Grandstand A and Grandstand C P200.00 3 Bleachers North, East, and South (FREE SEATING) P100.00
Etheridge will probably be not participating for this tournament because it will be held for the most part outside the FIFA international window, but considering what we saw from Falkesgaard in the friendly against Oman, the Philippines is in good hands with him manning the goaltender position.
Ming Fu: Si Fu Ming pala yung referee kahapon. Ngayon ko lang natandaan.
Nov 26, 2018 21:06:44 GMT 8
really: @pissed. What's the big deal with calling the national team as "Azkals" it doesn't come off as a club team for me. Its obviously the national team nickname; same as Gilas Pilipinas. Its not Azkals FC or Azkals United.
Nov 28, 2018 0:05:08 GMT 8
delver: I don't mind the national football team being called "Azkals". What I'm concerned about is how they always use the "Azkals" logo on their training kits/jackets and in promoting the games instead of the PFF crest.
Nov 28, 2018 9:14:16 GMT 8