SINGAPORE — Singapore has been selected to host this year's ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup from 5 December to 1 January, after being awarded the hosting rights to the 10-team tournament by the AFF council on Tuesday (28 September).
The biennial tournament, which was postponed from 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will be held in a centralised venue format, compared to recent editions which were played in decentralised venues.
This will be the fifth time that Singapore will host the AFF Suzuki Cup group stages, having hosted in 1996, 2002, 2007 and 2014. It will however be the biggest sports tournament to be staged in the country since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
There is no change to the main competition format – each team plays four fixtures in a round-robin system during the group stage and both the two semi-finals and final will be played in a two-legged format.
Singapore are drawn together with Thailand, Myanmar, the Philippines and the winner of the qualifying tie between Timor Leste and Brunei in Group A. Group B consists of defending champions Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos.
FAS confident of smooth execution of competition
The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) said in a media release on Tuesday evening that Singapore’s health and safety protocols will allow all participating nations to "compete with peace of mind".
"Additionally, Singapore has the necessary facilities that are capable of staging the 26 matches across the 10-team tournament, including the National Stadium at the Singapore Sports Hub," FAS added in the media release.
"Multiple training venues will also be available for usage to ensure that all teams can prepare to their best ability."
While Singapore is one of the safest countries in Southeast Asia with the highest vaccination rate among them (82 per cent), it is seeing a recent surge in number of daily cases (2,236 new cases on Tuesday).
Nonetheless, FAS said that it is confident in ensuring a smooth execution of the competition, based on Singapore's successful organisation of events such as the ONE Championship fight nights and the Singapore Open tennis tournament.
First major tournament for coach Yoshida
The Suzuki Cup will be the first major tournament for Singapore's national team coach Tatsuma Yoshida, despite have already been in charge of the Lions since 2019. He has guided the team through several World Cup qualifiers as well as friendlies.
“The AFF Suzuki Cup is a tournament that I have heard about since I was in Japan, and I am excited to be leading my boys into it," Yoshida said in the FAS media release.
"I know that the home support will roar the team on as we look to do our best – like they always have during my time here. It is my hope that we will be able to have our fans back in the stadium to cheer us on as I am very much looking forward to experiencing that once again.”
Singapore have won the Suzuki Cup four times (1998, 2004, 2007 and 2012), but have struggled in recent editions as they failed to advance from the group stage in the last three tournaments.
In the previous edition in 2018, Singapore were drawn in the group stage with Thailand, the Philippines and Timor Leste, together with Indonesia.
Under then-coach Fandi Ahmad, they beat Indonesia (1-0) and Timor Leste (6-1) but lost to the Philippines (0-1) and Thailand (0-3) to finish third in the group.
Stay in the know on-the-go: Join Yahoo Singapore's Telegram channel at http://t.me/YahooSingapore