In a curious quirk of the draw, Laos and Vietnam will meet in their opening group stage match for the second successive edition of the AFF Suzuki Cup.

Three years ago it was Vietnam that triumphed with a 3-0 win in Vientiane, a base that saw them eventually go on and win the tournament for a second time.

With a large number of that squad, along with the coach, returning for the 2020 AFF Suzuki Cup the Golden Stars are very much one of the tournament favourites.

The Korean manager, Park Hang-seo, said that his side will be looking to draw on their experience of both winning the previous edition and their recent showings in the final round of FIFA World Cup qualification as they aim to defend their title in Singapore.

“We played six FIFA World Cup qualifiers without winning and for sure that has had an impact on our mentality but also we improved match by match and we’re aiming to continue that in this tournament.

“This is a different situation and we know all teams are of a strong level but we come prepared with a strong spirit and pressure upon us because we know that we must defend the trophy.

“We know that it’s important to start things well but this match will be a difficult one, especially as we don’t know a great deal about the opposition.”

That’s largely in part because this is a new-look Laos side under the guidance of a new manager that are aiming to spring a surprise or two at the tournament.

Team Xat have never progressed beyond the group stage at the AFF Suzuki Cup but the new man in charge, Singaporean V. Selvaraj, believes this is a vastly stronger side than the one that lost all four matches at the previous edition.

“We’re proud and happy to be able to participate in this tournament and both myself and the team will be doing our best," he said. 

“It’s a question of taking it one game at a time and we know it’s a very big task to play Vietnam first and we’re definitely aware of their quality.

“Even though we have a young squad, I feel that we’re stronger than last time and our team is looking forward to facing Vietnam under difficult circumstances but we’ll do our best to try and compete against them.”