The headline clash of the group stage at the 2020 AFF Suzuki Cup is undoubtedly the rematch of the final from three years ago as Vietnam and Malaysia meet once again.

On that occasion it was Vietnam that scored early in a 1-0 win to seal the aggregate victory and deliver the nation’s second title.

One player who was on the pitch for that historic win was midfielder Luong Xuan Truong and he’s under no illusions as to just how important this latest meeting with Malaysia will be.

“This is going to be a good test for us if we want to defend the championship and it’s a highlight of the group stage," said Xuan Truong.  

“You can say that this is like a final of the group stage and if we want to be the champions we need to overcome this challenge. We know it will be tough but if we want to go further this is what we have to do.”

The silky central midfielder has been a star of the national team for several years now and he also touched on the challenge of having to overcome a disappointing qualification campaign for the FIFA World Cup as well as the difficulties that Malaysia pose.

“We didn’t get the results that we wanted in the World Cup qualification so that has been a mental challenge that we have to overcome but now we need to focus on Malaysia and we know that they have a lot of strength, especially in the front three.

“That means that we need to be focussed on defending well but also playing quickly. Everybody knows we play counter-attack so that’s one of the options in trying to stop them.”

Malaysia, meanwhile, are also fully aware of the significance of the match and the stakes that come with it, according to coach Tan Cheng Hoe.

“Every point in the group stage is important if we hope to go the next level so this is a match where we need to show a positive mindset and play with belief.”

The coach also confirmed that Danish-based defender Dion Cools has yet to arrive in Singapore whilst a further four players, led by Matchday One Player of the Round Akhyar Rashid, remain under quarantine and are unavailable for the match.

“Those players, including Akhyar, will not play and also there is an injury issue with Junior Eldstal and he is unlikely to train today so we have to focus on the players we have available. We have to defend and attack as a team, and this match is no different to any other in that our approach is always to play to win.”