Football

A look at the Group B football teams

GABRIEL TAN looks at the football battle in Group B, which kicks off today

THAILAND

Coach: Choketawee Promrut

Best result: Gold (1965 - shared with Burma, 1975, 1981, 1983, 1985, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2013)

Last SEA Games: Gold

Key players: Chanathip Songkrasin, Peerapat Notechaiya, Sarach Yooyen

Recent results: beat Myanmar 4-0, drew 0-0 with North Korea, beat the Philippines 5-1

Team talk: As holders of both the AFF Suzuki Cup and SEA Games title, few would argue that Thailand are the dominant side in the region.

History is also on their side, given that they have enjoyed plenty of success in past SEA Games, with 14 gold medals to their name.

They will enter the tournament as favourites, as a host of senior stars from last year's AFF Suzuki Cup-winning squad are eligible, including talismanic playmaker Chanathip Songkrasin and sturdy centre back Tanaboon Kesarat.

However, they won't have poster boy Charyl Chappuis, who misses out through injury, and head coach Kiatisuk Senamuang due to the World Cup qualifiers, which is their top priority.

He has handed the reins to assistant coach Choketawee Promrut.

Having worked with Kiatisuk for several years now, the former Thailand defender will have no problems getting the players to do what the head coach wants from them on the field.

There is still plenty of quality in the U-23 side with Chanathip, Thitipan Puangchan and Chananan Pombuppha all set to star.

But whether Choketawee has the necessary nous and experience to lead his side through the entire tournament will probably determine whether Thailand can claim a second straight gold medal.

BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: Malaysia coach Ong Kim Swee (above) knows what it takes to win the SEA Games gold, having done it in 2011.

MALAYSIA

Coach: 
Ong Kim Swee


Best result: Gold (1961 as Malaya, 1977, 1979, 1989, 2009, 2011)


Last SEA Games: Fourth

Key players: Gary Robbat, Nazmi Faiz, Syahrul Azwari

Recent results: lost 1-0 to Indonesia, lost 1-0 to Japan, beat Macau 2-0

Team talk: Malaysia were left to lick their wounds at the last SEA Games, and there is no doubt they will head to Singapore looking to bite back.

Not only were they dethroned as champions by Thailand, but they also lost out to arch-rivals Singapore in the bronze medal play-off - meaning pride will be just one of several motivating factors this time.

In Ong Kim Swee, the Malaysians have a coach who knows what it takes to win the tournament, having led them to the gold medal in 2011.

Although the ex-Malaysia international is essentially working with a new crop of youngsters, he still has plenty of experience to call upon, with Nazmi Faiz, Syahrul Azwari, Amer Saidin and Fandi Othman all surviving members from that title-winning squad.

In addition, the likes of Gary Robbat and D Saarvindran have shown glimpses of their quality over the years, while Ong has never been afraid to put his faith in youth and is likely to give rising starlets Syafiq Ahmad and Ariff Farhan a chance to prove their worth.

It may not be the same star-studded side that went all the way four years ago, but opponents should still write Malaysia off at their own peril.

VIETNAM

Coach: Toshiya Miura

Best result: Gold (1959 as South Vietnam)

Last SEA Games: Group stage

Key players: Que Ngoc Hai, Vo Huy Toan, Mac Hong Quan

Recent results: drew 2-2 with Myanmar, drew 0-0 with South Korea, beat Macau 7-0

Team talk: For a country long regarded as one of South-east Asia's top sides, it's remarkable that Vietnam's only SEA Games football gold came at the inaugural edition back in 1959, as South Vietnam.

Since then, they have reached the final seven times, but have always had to settle for second place.

On paper, Vietnam have a strong squad peppered with players boasting senior-team experience, including right back Que Ngoc Hai and attacking midfielder Vo Huy Toan, who both impressed at last year's Suzuki Cup.

In Toshiya Miura, they also have a coach who has tried to implement the style of play that has been synonymous with his homeland Japan.

Thus far, it appears that the Vietnamese are well suited to a quick pass-and-move game.

They impressed at the recent AFC U-23 qualifiers to advance to the finals, finishing ahead of Malaysia and Macau and just behind Japan.

However, in a tough SEA Games group with Thailand and Malaysia also vying for the top two spots, it remains to be seen if Vietnam have enough quality to advance to the semi-finals.

TIMOR LESTE

Coach: Fabio Magrao

Best result: Group stage

Last SEA Games: Group stage

Key players: Anggisu Barbosa, Jose Fonseca, Ramos Maxanches

Recent results: lost 2-0 to Singapore, beat Brunei 3-0, lost 3-0 to South Korea

Team talk: Timor Leste, the youngest nation in the region, are yet to make their mark in South-east Asian football.

They made their SEA Games debut as recently as 2009. It was a tournament to forget for them, as they lost all four of their matches and conceded a whopping 28 goals in the process.

But it hasn't exactly been all doom and gloom for the Timorese since then.

Two years later in Indonesia, they managed to claim victories over Brunei and the Philippines to finish third in their group, before following up with another creditable display in 2013, picking up four points in Myanmar after beating Cambodia and holding Indonesia to a 0-0 draw.

Still, it would take a miracle for Timor Leste to advance to the knockout round for the first time, given they have been drawn in the same group as powerhouses Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Nonetheless, O Sol Nascente do have a number of quality players in Anggisu Barbosa, Jose Fonseca and Ramos Maxanches, and will be looking to prove they are on the right track with a strong showing in Singapore.

BRUNEI

Coach: Stephen Ng

Best result: Fourth (1983)

Last SEA Games: Group stage

Key players: Azwan Ali, Aminuddin Zakwan, Ak Yura Indera Putera

Recent results: lost 3-0 to Timor Leste, lost 2-0 to Indonesia, lost 5-0 to South Korea

Team talk: There will be a familiar face in the Brunei dugout at this SEA Games, as former Singapore goalkeeper Stephen Ng tries to repeat history.

Although Brunei have long been regarded as minnows in the region, they managed to finish fourth in 1983.

On that occasion, they remarkably finished second in a group also consisting of Thailand, Indonesia and Burma (now Myanmar), before losing to hosts Singapore and Malaysia in the semi-finals and bronze-medal play-off, respectively.

It won't be easy for the Bruneians this time, even though club side Brunei DPMM FC have made quite an impact since joining Singapore's S.League.

One criticism of DPMM has been their reluctance to blood in young talent, which could add to Brunei's troubles at the Games.

Only two U-23 players - Azwan Ali (above) and Aminuddin Zakwan - have featured prominently in this season's S.League, while the rest play mostly in Brunei's fledgling professional league.

LAOS

Coach: David Booth

Best result: Bronze (1969 
- shared with Malaysia)

Last SEA Games: Group stage

Key players: Soukaphone Vongchiengkham, 
Ketsada Souksavanh, Khonesavanh Sihavong

Recent results: lost 5-1 to Singapore, lost 3-0 to China, beat Mongolia 7-0

Team talk: Laos' key players may sound familiar to many fans, given that they have been mainstays in the Laos national team over the past few years.

But remarkably, the trio remain eligible to participate in this SEA Games and will be integral to any medal prospects Thim Xad may have.

Soukaphone (above) is shaping up as the main man for the Laotians with his excellent dribbling skills and a keen eye for a pass. He has also shown that he knows where the goals are.

Singapore fans might remember him as the dangerman when both sides met in the 2012 Suzuki Cup group stage, although the Lions managed to win 4-3 on that occasion.

The Laotians also have Khonesavanh Sihavong and Vilayout Sayyabounsou tearing down the wings, along with Keoviengpheth Lithideth pulling the strings in the engine room, ensuring they could carve out their fair share of chances.

Nonetheless, Laos just do not have quality out-and-out strikers, which could prove to be their undoing.

GROUP B FIXTURES

Today

  • Brunei v Vietnam (4pm)
  • Laos v Thailand (8.30pm)

Tomorrow

  • Malaysia v Timor Leste (8.30pm)

Sunday

  • Brunei v Laos (8.30pm)

June 1 (Mon)

  • Thailand v Timor Leste (8.30pm)

June 2 (Tues)

  • Vietnam v Malaysia (8.30pm)

June 3 (Wed)

  • Timor Leste v Brunei (8.30pm)

June 4 (Thurs)

  • Malaysia v Thailand (4pm)
  • Vietnam v Laos (8.30pm)

June 6 (Sat)

  • Thailand v Brunei (8.30pm)

June 7 (Sun)

  • Timor Leste v Vietnam (8.30pm)

June 8 (Mon)

  • Brunei v Malaysia (8.30pm)

June 9 (Tues)

  • Timor Leste v Laos (8.30pm)

June 10 (Wed)

  • Vietnam v Thailand (8.30pm)

June 11 (Thurs)

  • Laos v Malaysia (8.30pm)

SEMI-FINALS

  • June 13, 2pm and 8.30pm

BRONZE PLAY-OFF

  • June 15, 2pm

FINAL

  • June 15, 8.30pm

(All Group B fixtures to be played 
at Bishan Stadium. Knockout stages 
to be played at National Stadium)


 

SEA GamesTeam SingaporeFootballGroup B