1087 days after the previous edition concluded in Hanoi, the AFF Suzuki Cup returns with one of the tournament favourites kicking things off at the Singapore National Stadium.

After failing to reach the final three years ago, Thailand return to the regional stage with a new coach at the helm and a precise goal in mind, as the Brazilian-German mentor Alexandre Polking explained.

“We have a clear target to bring the trophy back home, of course we know that Vietnam as the champion is a strong team but Thailand has a very good history in this tournament and we are strongly motivated.

“The players are at a very good level in terms of their fitness as the league has been continuing now for several months and although some of the overseas based players such as Chanathip Songkrasin and Theerathon Bunmathan can’t join us for the first match, the players are in good shape and we’re planning to grow throughout the tournament.”

Whilst Thailand, with five titles to their name, are the most successful nation in the history of the AFF Suzuki Cup, Timor-Leste are relative novices.

This will be just the third appearance at the finals for a youthful Timorese side that are still searching for their first points but they have an experienced hand at the wheel in another Brazilian coach, Fabio Maciel.

“The lockdown has had a clear impact in terms of our preparation and especially with issues around the local league but we are aiming to do the best that we can.

“I’ve been trying to build a new generation of players and I think that we’ll have the youngest team at the tournament with an average age of just 20 so it’s important that we show a new style and that the young players can grow and learn.”

This clash of two Brazilian coaches is one of the highlights of the opening round of fixtures and as the Thai manager, Polking, explained his team can’t take Timor-Leste lightly.  

“It was great to meet another coach from Brazil, I think he has done a good job in having Timor-Leste playing modern football with an attacking mentality and a high press so we will definitely not underestimate them.

“I hope that they can cause some surprises in the tournament but just not tomorrow.”