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Kuala Lumpur: Men's football kicks off the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games on Monday and the-AFC.com previews what is surely going to be an exciting affair involving all 11 ASEAN teams.

Group A: Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Laos, Brunei Darussalam

Malaysia (pictured above) will definitely be a force to be reckoned with as they seek to win gold on home soil, having tasted glory in the 2009 and 2011 editions in Vientiane, Laos and Naypyidaw, Myanmar respectively. Coached by Ong Kim Swee - who guided the 2011 squad to the gold medal - Malaysia's hopes received an early boost when they qualified for the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship by winning their group in July. History also favours the home team as they have made the final on the last four occasions Malaysia has hosted the biennial Games - winning gold in 1977 and 1989 and finishing runners-up in 1971 and 2001.

Myanmar will be on a mission to win the gold medal after agonisingly missing out on the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship. Myanmar won silver in the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore, losing 3-0 to regional powerhouses Thailand in the final. Myanmar are one of five teams to have won the men's football gold medal before but the last of their five triumphs was in 1973 and the 2017 squad will be confident of advancing to the semi-finals before focusing on their charge for the title.


Myanmar were runners-up in the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore 

Singapore are another ASEAN side to have missed out on the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship and will be seeking a good run in the SEA Games, which they will be hoping ends with the gold medal. 
That will be a huge challenge though as the last time Singapore made the final was in 1989, losing 3-1 to Malaysia in a rain-drenched decider played at the iconic Merdeka Stadium. Singapore were bronze medallists in the 2013 Games but did not make the semi-finals when they hosted the 2015 edition.


Singapore missed out on the 2015 Sea Games semi-finals on home soil.

Laos may not be favourites but they can, as shown in the 1997 SEA Games when they beat Malaysia 1-0 in the group stage, be spoilers and the other teams will do well to treat Laos with respect. A bronze won in the 1969 Games is their best achievement, having finished fourth in 1967 and 2009.

Brunei will also be keen to stamp their mark on the competition and their ability to surprise must not be discounted, especially in a tournament where matches will come thick and fast.

Group A Fixtures
August 14:
Myanmar v Singapore, Malaysia v Brunei
August 16: Singapore v Malaysia, Myanmar v Laos
August 18: Laos v Singapore, Brunei v Myanmar
August 21: Brunei v Laos, Malaysia v Myanmar
August 23: Laos v Malaysia, Singapore v Brunei
August 26: Semi-finals
August 29: Final


Group B: Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Philippines

Despite what looks like a tricky group, Thailand will surely fancy their chances of retaining the gold medal they have won on 15 previous occasions. Such has been Thailand's dominance in the SEA Games that they have won the gold medal in 10 of the previous 12 editions. Coach Worrawoot Srimaka's men will be out to reassert their regional supremacy, having qualified for the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship but only as one of the six best second-placed teams after they finished second behind Malaysia in the qualifying round.


Thailand will be defending a proud record in the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games. 

Vietnam also advanced to the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship as one of the six best second-placed teams and are always challengers at the ASEAN level. Bronze medallists in the 2015 Games, Vietnam will be aiming to end their long wait for gold, with their only win coming in the inaugural edition in 1959. The last time Vietnam featured in the SEA Games final was when they lost 1-0 to Malaysia in the 2009 decider and their fans will be hoping the wait for gold ends in Kuala Lumpur.


Vietnam will be seeking to end their long wait for the SEA Games gold medal. 

Indonesia have won the SEA Games gold twice but the last of their triumphs was in 1991, as they had to settle for silver behind Malaysia and Thailand in 2011 and 2013 respectively. They finished fourth in the 2015 Games and having just returned to international action after a FIFA-imposed ban, Indonesia have some hard work ahead in the SEA Games but the 0-0 draw with Thailand in the AFC U-23 Championship Qualifiers will be a source of motivation for the challenges ahead.

Cambodia finished third behind China PR and Japan in Group J of the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship Qualifiers and will be counting on the experience gained playing against the two Asian giants to help them in their SEA Games quest. Cambodia held China 0-0, lost 0-2 to Japan and beat the Philippines 1-0 in the Qualifiers and will be looking to build on that in the SEA Games.

Timor-Leste have a huge challenge ahead but will view the SEA Games as an important part of their bid to match their regional rivals. They are potential spoilers and the other teams in Group B will do well to treat them with respect

The Philippines would have surely been disappointed with their campaign in the 2018 Asian U-23 Championship Qualifiers, where they lost all three matches. The SEA Games is the perfect platform for them to remind the region of their capabilities as they seek to better their best ever finish of fourth - achieved on home soil in the 1991 SEA Games.

Group B fixtures
August 15:
Indonesia v Thailand, Vietnam v Timor-Leste, Cambodia v Philippines
August 17: Vietnam v Cambodia, Indonesia v Philippines, Thailand v Timor-Leste
August 20: Philippinesv Vietnam, Timor-Leste v Indonesia, Thailand v Cambodia
August 22: Cambodia v Timor-Leste, Philippines v Thailand, Vietnam v Indonesia
August 24: Indonesia v Cambodia, Thailand v Vietnam, Timor-Leste v Philippines
August 26: Semi-finals
August 29: Final

Photos: AFC   

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