With less than a month until the AFF Suzuki Cup kicks off, the ten nations at the finals have been fine-tuning their preparations in the last FIFA window before the continental spotlight falls on Southeast Asia in November.

Some nations opted not to play matches, preferring to focus on tactical and team-building activity through a series of camps, but there was plenty of action elsewhere as the AFF Suzuki Cup hopefuls crisscrossed the region, going as far as Sri Lanka and Bahrain to get in some vital match practice.

We take a look at some of the players that impressed in those matches as the countdown to kickoff in the region’s showpiece tournament approaches.

Mohamadou Sumareh (Malaysia)

As far as dream debuts go they don’t get much better than the 45 minutes that Malaysia’s newest international produced in a 4-1 win over Sri Lanka in Colombo.

The Gambia-born forward became the first naturalised, foreign-born, player with no ancestral ties to play for Malaysia and he wasted little time in making his mark.

Arriving as a half-time substitute, the 27-year-old scored in the 85th and then 92nd minutes to cap off the come-from-behind win against a plucky Sri Lankan side.

He was rewarded with a start in Harimau Malaya’s second match, a credible 1-0 loss to Kyrgyz Republic, where he lined up on the right wing, and whilst he didn’t have the same impact as he did on debut, he was solid nonetheless.

Neil Etheridge/Michael Falkesgaard/Louie Casas (Philippines)

One thing’s for sure and that’s whoever will be in goal for the Philippines at the AFF Suzuki Cup will be a safe pair of hands.

After the veteran Louie Casas starred in the Bangabandhu Cup in Bangladesh, the more established options turned out as the Azkals did fantastically well to repel AFC Asian Cup-bound Oman in a scoreless draw in neutral Qatar.

English Premier League star, Neil Etheridge, played the first half of that match and produced a string of exceptional saves before Falkesgaard took over for the second half and did likewise.

Given that Etheridge appears unlikely to play more than two group stage matches, the ambitious Philippines will surely be a very hard side to break down regardless of just who is between the posts.

Evan Dimas (Indonesia)

The prodigious talent started in both of Indonesia’s recent internationals – a 3-0 win over Myanmar and a 1-1 draw at home to Hong Kong – and once again showed why he’s regarded as one of Southeast Asia’s most silky central midfielders.

Playing as the ‘number eight’ in Indonesia’s 4-3-3 he was constantly involved in the play, setting the tempo, winning tackles and driving the Merah Putih forward with his delightful range of passing, both short and long.

Any nation that wants to stop Indonesia playing at the AFF Suzuki Cup will surely need to make it one of their first points of business to stymie the tempo-setting star in the middle of the pitch.

Chalermpong Kerdkaew (Thailand)

Having chalked up a pair of 1-0 wins – on the road against Hong Kong and then at home against Trinidad & Tobago – things seem to moving nicely along towards a successful title defence for the War Elephants.

There was some rust despite those victories, though, with the second match acting as a testimonial for retiring goalkeeper Sinthaweechai Hathairattnakool and featuring the three J.League stars who won’t be on display at the AFF Suzuki Cup.

With some questions over the team’s attacking output it was heartening to see a solid defensive display with the anchor in the middle in both matches being 31-year-old Chalermpong, who after having been something of a late bloomer at international level now appears to be a steady option at the back where he will likely also emerge as a captaincy contender given his calm and composed approach.

Chan Vathanaka/Chhin Chhoeun (Cambodia)

The pinup boy of Cambodian football, Chan Vathanaka, dazzled in a 2-2 draw at home to Timor-Leste last week, scoring one incisive goal on the counter and providing the assist for the second before it was the dynamic right winger Chhin Chhoeun, who caught the eye four days later as the Angkor Warriors fell 2-1 to Singapore.


Having come on in the second half of the Timor match and looking lively, 26-year-old Chhoeun was a constant menace out wide in the 57 minutes he played against a Singapore team that struggled to contain his flicks and tricks and willingness to dribble past or around defenders.

If these two lively attacking threats click during the AFF Suzuki Cup, Cambodia could be a real joy to watch.

Photos: Getty Images, Football Federation of Sri Lanka, Philippine Football Federation