What a start for the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup! The tournament has exploded into action with 14 goals over 4 Group Stage matches. In terms of atmosphere – it was particularly buzzing in Yangdon’s Thuwunna Stadium, where a near capacity crowd turned up on Sunday night to back their home team, Myanmar.
Here are the five things we have learnt from the first round of matches and how we will apply them as build our MD2 squads.
Thailand V Singapore
Thai striker Teerasil Dangda has affirmed his status as the top striker in ASEAN with his hattrick against Indonesia. Dangda is quick, tactically aware and packs a mean finishing and should be again your top pick as Thailand takes on Singapore for the second match of the Group Stage. He is definitely worth captaining as well. Chanathip Songkrasin and Sarach Yooyen enjoyed a lot space against the Indonesians and both will be key for the Thais again. Goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan looks good for a clean sheet and should be your top choice.
As for Singapore, they looked well organised and hardy, but the Thais may be a bridge too far. A draw will be a superb result for the Lions so coach Sundram may set his team out to get that result. Avoid Singapore attacking players as they are not expected to score. Defenders Daniel Bennett and Madhu Mohana may be worth considering if you believe Singapore can hold out another 0-0 here. Bennett is good in the air and may be a threat on set-pieces while Mohana packs a mean long throw and may get an assist.
Philippines V Indonesia
Host Philippines were very disappointed not to have beaten Singapore in their first match and will see this game as a must-win. Three points here will put them on 4 points going into the final match against hot favourites Thailand. Phil Younghusband looked dangerous and worth a pick as one of your forwards. German born Stephan Schrock (2nd captain choice) takes all the set-pieces for his side and will be should feature in your midfield. Defender Jeffrey Christiaens looks threatening going forward and worth your consideration if you favour a Philippines win here. GK Roland Muller did not do much against Singapore but could possibly keep a clean sheet here against the Indonesians.
Indonesia surprised almost everyone when they scored twice against the Thais. Captain Boaz Solossa is lively upfront and worth a goal or two. Malaysia-based Andik Vermansyah is the midfield engine of Indonesia.
Malaysia V Vietnam
This match pitches the two sides which have picked up maximum points in the first match. Malaysia did not play well against Cambodia but showed spirit in coming back from behind. Their defence were particularly porous so best to avoid anyone from the Malaysian back-line. Captain Amri Yahyah looks sharp and will be in middle of action of every Malaysia attack. Veteran Safee Sali came on and made the difference for Malaysia and may be rewarded with a spot in the starting XI this time round. His partnership with Amri will be key.
For Vietnam, the front two of Le Cong Vinh (3rd Captain choice) and Nguyan Van Quyet were on fire against Myanmar and will likely to continue to lead the line. Veteran center-back Truong Dinh Luat looks solid and worth a pick in defence. He has a good goal-scoring record as a defender in club football, though he has yet to score for Vietnam. Pacy Que Ngoc Hai is also worth a look-in.
Myanmar V Cambodia
This game is now almost a must-win for host Myanmar. This side is made up largely of the cohort of U20 players which reached the U20 FIFA World Cup just last year and striker Aung Thu is a star player. His goal against Vietnam was clinical and he does look mobile upfront. GK Kyaw Zin Phyo is a good pick, as well as defenders Nanda Kyaw and David Htan.
As for Cambodia, they huffed and puffed against the Malaysians but did not have enough tactically or physically to win the game. They will struggle here against the hosts but striker Chan Vathanaka is a good pick as a forward. His goal-scoring record for club and country is quite sensational and looked hungry and eager to showcase his skills this tournament. Cambodia may exit early, but Vathanaka will leave a strong impression.
Since all players are similarly priced, the key to doing well in this game is simply to pick players who will play. Four of the top five managers for MD1 picked 11 players who made appearances. Barring injuries and suspensions, there should be minimal changes as the nations seek to seal qualification – MD3 will present much more difficult dilemmas.
(picture from http://bola.kini.co.id/)
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