Succeeding South East Asia’s premiere football competition, the AFF Suzuki Cup, is Asia’s grandest and biggest tournament, the AFC Asian Cup. This year’s competition will see the largest number of nations participating in the quadrennial tournament, consisting of 24 total teams who are hoping to kick their way into football supremacy.

With the expanded field of participants, three of ASEAN football’s top squads are looking to turn heads in their respective campaigns. Vietnam, the newly-crowned 2018 AFF Cup Champions, leads the pack and are joined by two other AFF Cup semifinalists in Thailand and the Philippines.

Ranked 100th in the world and 17th in the region in FIFA’s latest rankings, the Golden Dragons of Vietnam have arguably the toughest group among the three as they join Iran (29th in the world, first in the region), Iraq (88th in the world, 11th in the region) and Yemen (135th in the world, 26th in the region).

The Azkals of the Philippines, ranked 116th in the world and 21st in the region, are also included in what could be considered a group of death where they will have to fight for their survival against South Korea (53rd in the world, third in the region), China (76th in the world, seventh in the region) and Kyrgyzstan (91st in the world, 12th in the region).

Meanwhile, Thailand, who is ranked just behind the Philippines at 118th in the world and 22nd in the region, is poised to have a deep run in the competition and could reach the knockout stage due to their group having lighter opponents in comparison to the other two ASEAN nations. Their group is made up of India (97th in the world, 15th in the region), Bahrain (113th in the world, 20th in the region) and hosts UAE (79th in the world, eighth in the region).

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