Preview: 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup

By Paul Masefield

It is that time of the year when South East Asia's most prestigious tournament looks to get underway. I for one can't wait for the action to start especially in Group B, which to me to be the group of death.

Reigning champions Malaysia will play host with former champions Singapore, 2008's runners-up Indonesia and Laos who placed second in the qualifying tournament.

For me, I can see three good teams in a group that could come down to goal difference who will qualify for the later stages of the competition. However that being said, I don't think Singapore has the strength in depth as the Malaysian and the Indonesian teams.

Laos should be the whipping boys of the group. They drew one game in the last edition of the tournament versus Thailand but have only ever won two games in the eight times the tournament has been held.

Singapore will once again rely heavily on 42-year-old Alexander Duric to get them the goals. But he needs the service and after seeing the Lions play a few times this year, I don't believe that they have the quality in midfield that Malaysia and Indonesia have.

Malaysia under K.Rajagopal were fantastic in the last edition of this tournament, and having home advantage and a partisan crowd behind them will spur them on. Rajagopal has opted to go for a younger more inexperienced team. They have had some disappointing results in the warm up games and they will need to pick up their form if they are going to retain the title. They do have a solid back four and going forwards they will need the goals of Muhammad Safee.

Indonesia are my dark horses for the title this year. Credible draws with Vietnam and Cameroon in their warm up games show that Nil Maizar is getting the balance of the team right. He is also stamping his mark on the team by introducing a lot of younger players whilst still managing to keep the senior players like Eli Aiboy and Bambang Pamungas.

It's going to be very tough and very tight group B, but I can't wait to see who comes out on top and who qualifies from the group of death.

Former professional footballer Paul Masefield has previously played in England and Asia and is ESPN STAR Sports' football pundit and commentator. Catch him on the LIVE coverage of the AFF Suzuki Cup when Singapore plays against Malaysia on ESPN (SingTel mio TV Ch 114) at 8.30pm

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