After reviewing the best goalkeepers of the group stage, we now turn our focus to the defenders as we look back on the five defenders who impressed the most during the group stage of the AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup 2022. 

Integral to keeping things tight at the back but also key when it comes to attacking down the flanks and a danger from set-pieces, so much of a team's success can be put down to its defenders. 

We've picked out five who stood out in the opening four fixtures and ask you, the fans, to vote for who you think deserves to be named the best.

Doan Van Hau (Vietnam)

Having missed the 2020 edition due to injury, Doan Van Hau played his first AFF Championship match since winning the 2018 final when lined up against Laos, and the attacking full-back delivered a stunning outside-of-the-boot goal to mark the occasion.

Deployed in the left wing-back position, Van Hau proved solid at the back in a Vietnam side that has yet to concede and a constant threat going forward, where his bursting runs and pinpoint crosses are key to the Golden Star Warriors' attacking play. 

Asnawi Mangkualam (Indonesia)

While Vietnam have Van Hau commanding the left side of the pitch, on the right Indonesia have the considerable talent of Asnawi Mangkualam, who burst onto the scene at the 2020 edition and has continued his upward trajectory this time round. 

It was Asnawi's run and shot that led to Indonesia's penalty against Thailand as his energetic displays continue to cause havoc among opposition backlines. As the semi-final against Vietnam rapidly approaches, Van Hau may be forced into doing more defensive duties than he has been used to so far.

Irfan Fandi (Singapore)

The oldest sibling of Singapore's most famous footballing family and the son of the legendary Fandi Ahmad, Irfan Fandi was instrumental in his side's unbeaten first three games in the competition.

Irfan headed home the opening goal in the 2-0 win over Laos and was named man-of-the-match in successive shutouts against the Laotians and Vietnam, the latter in which he was a rock at the back to keep the Vietnamese at bay. The Lions' defeat to Malaysia in their final group match, however, saw them eliminated. 

Sasalak Haiprakhon (Thailand)

With long-time left-back Theerathon Bunmathan now playing in midfield for Thailand, it's Sasalak Haiprakhon who Alexandre Polking has turned to for the role, and the Buriram United star has not disappointed. 

The attacking full-back links up superbly with Bordin Phala on the left flank and is an integral part of the War Elephants' forward play, while he is also a key member of a backline that has conceded just two goals in four games.

Sharul Nazeem (Malaysia)

Having only made his international debut less than a year ago, Sharul Nazeem was a mainstay in a backline that kept two clean sheets in four games to return to the semi-finals for the first time since 2018.

A firm favourite of head coach Kim Pan-gon, Sharul remained a calm presence at the back in a potentially nervy do-or-die clash against Singapore and, with qualification safely secured after a 4-1 win, he will again have a big role to play when the Harimau Malaya take on Thailand in the semi-finals.