Malaysia's Mohd Amar Rohidan tussles for the ball with a Thailand player in the 2012 Suzuki Cup semi-finals in Bangkok which the home side won 2-0. - Filepic
PETALING JAYA: Malaysia has been handed a tough draw in its bid to reclaim the Suzuki AFF Cup which will be co-hosted by Singapore and Vietnam from Nov 22-Dec 20.
In the official draw held in Hanoi on Tuesday, the 2010 champion Harimau Malaya will have defending champions Singapore, three-time champion Thailand and the winner of the qualifying tournament as company in Group B.
Vietnam, Phillipines - the semi-finalists in 2012 - Indonesia and the qualifying runner-up make up Group A.
The five teams in the qualifying tournament are Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Brunei and Timor Leste, with Myanmar tipped as hot favourites to win the qualifiers.
Laos will host the single round-robin qualifying competition from Oct 12-20.
While Group B is seen as the “Group of Death”, Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) secretary-general Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin has a different view describing it as “reasonable”.
“In my opinion, there is no group of death in this tournament,” said Hamidin who was in Vietnam for the ceremony.
“I thought the draw was reasonable and in fact we prefer to play in Singapore.
“Playing in Singapore is something we can take advantage of, logistically in particular, as it’s nearby.
“It should also serve as good news for our fans too. It’s easier for them to travel down south than to Vietnam. I’m sure our team will have strong support.
“Singapore and Thailand are multiple time champions but Malaysia, having lifted the trophy in 2010, are one of the strongest teams in the region. We are unfazed by our rivals’ reputations.”
Newly-appointed head coach Dollah Salleh has been set a lofty target by the FAM to reach the final of the biennial regional tournament.
In the 2012 edition, Malaysia then led by Datuk K. Rajagobal, bowed out in the semi-finals after going down 3-1 on aggregate to Thailand.
The national team have lined up several friendlies in the next few months.
Dollah’s boys will take on Tajikistan on Friday before three more ties against Jordan (Oct 11), Singapore (Nov 15) and New Zealand (Nov 18).