16 September 2010

Brunei to miss AFF Suzuki Cup

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Sultanate will not be vying for a berth in the Asean Football Federation's (AFF) Suzuki Cup qualification in Vientiane, Laos in October.

Due to the extended suspension by International Federation of Association Football (Fifa) on Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (Bafa) in June, Brunei is not eligible to partake in the biennial international football competition organised by the AFF.

Therefore football fans need not hold their breath for the much anticipated return of DPMM FC, who represented the Sultanate in the tournament two years ago.

The national team placed fourth in 2008, collecting a total of four points from as many matches a win, a draw and two losts.

National striker Shahrazen Hj Md Said proved exactly why he was the country's most deadly player in front of goal when he found the back of the net in the 1-1 draw against the Philippines, their first match in the campaign.

In their next match against Timor-Leste, Shahrazen scored a brace for an impressive 4-1 victory against Timor-Leste to help Brunei gain reputation as one of the competition's top-dogs.

The title did not last as they soon found themselves on the losing end of a 3-2 scoreline to Laos in the third qualification match.

In a do-or-die battle against hosts Cambodia, Brunei lost a first half advantage and succumbed to a 2-1 loss at the National Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh to bring an early end to their campaign.

As the opportunity for payback is lost, only four teams will compete in the qualifying round to secure the final two berths between Oct 22-26: Laos, Cambodia, Timor-Leste and the Philippines.

The two teams that advance will join six other nations in the tournament proper in December, which is co-hosted by Vietnam and Indonesia.

Teams that qualified automatically for the finals, based on their tournament records, are defending champions Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Myanmar.

In a draw held yesterday in Hanoi, defeated 2008-finalists Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia have been placed in Group A. Meanwhile hosts Vietnam, Singapore and Myanmar are in Group B.

The teams that place first and second in the qualifiers will be allocated the final berth in Group A and B respectively.

The top two teams from each group will advance to home and away semi-finals, with the final also to be played on a home and away basis.

Former England Captain Bryan Robson, who will helm Thailand, expects a tough outing from hosts Indonesia but maintains his team as one of the favourites.

"I think whichever way it was going to go you are going to get at least one tough team, especially as they have home advantage," said Robson.

"(Co-hosts) Indonesia or Vietnam were obviously going to be in the group and provide us with a difficult game. We have drawn Indonesia and I have already heard that there is likely to be 100,000 spectators there and that will be a difficult challenge for the boys.

"But I would say that we will be one of the favourites in the competition."

Three-time title holders Singapore are aiming for the final at least in the eight edition of the tournament.

"The group we are in is slightly easier than the other group, where there will be three title contenders in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia," said Singapore coach Radojko Avramovic.

"Overall I am happy with the draw. It is a good draw for us. There are three stages in the tournament and we need to clear the first two stages to reach our target of the final."

The Brunei Times

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