The AFF Suzuki Cup 2016, ASEAN’s premier football tournament, will blast off on Saturday (October 15) with two Qualification Round matches in front of an expected 50,000 fans at the National Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh.

Brunei Darussalam take on Timor Leste in the opening game before hosts Cambodia clash with Laos in the second match of the double header. The other match days are October 18 and 21.

The stakes are high in the round-robin Qualification Round matches with just one spot up for grabs, in the eight-team AFF Suzuki Cup 2016 final rounds, which kick off on November 19.

The qualification round winner will play hosts Myanmar, former winners Malaysia and in-form Vietnam, who won the AFF Suzuki Cup in 2008, in Group B.


The other group in the Philippines features the hosts, defending champions Thailand, four-time winners Singapore and an Indonesia side hungry for success after a spell in the international wilderness.


Cambodia, bidding for a place in the group stage for the sixth time having last qualified in 2008, will go into Saturday’s showdown with a spring in their step after a thumping 4-0 win over Sri Lanka on Sunday.


They dominated the match with Chan Vathanaka ruling the midfield and impressing with his left-footed deliveries from set pieces. Defender Soeuy Visal and Thierry Chantha Bin scored in the first half with striker Keo Sokpheng grabbing a brace after the break.


Laos, looking to maintain their record of having played in every AFF Championship since 1996, go into the Qualification Round tournament on the back of a 1-1 draw with the Maldives in the playoff round of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 qualifiers.


The result meant Laos went down 5-1 on aggregate with coach Valakone Phomphakdy bemoaning the early loss through injury of the influential Khampheng Sayavutthi in the 1-1 draw.


“We lost our main man Khampheng (Sayavutthi) in the early minutes, so we had to change the tactics. He would have helped a lot in the attack if he had stayed,” he said.


“We attacked regularly in the second half, and overall it was a good game.”


Brunei Darussalam, whose only group stage appearance was at the inaugural tournament in 1996, lost two recent warm-up matches to Malaysia under-22s but the coaching team feel that the lessons learned there will stand them in good stead during the qualifiers.


With 10 players from S-League side DPMM FC in the squad, Brunei Darussalam will be hoping that superior teamwork makes up for the national team’s lack of international exposure.


Timor Leste, their opponents on Saturday, lost twice to Chinese Taipei in four days but coach Fernando Alcantara has faith in the youthful team that will attempt to guide them into the group stage for just the second time.


“We had a lot of young players in the side (against Chinese Taipei),” he said. “Six of the players that finished were under-19 so it is a great experience for them and I am proud of their performance.”

- Advertisement -