Kim Pan Gon. - NSTP file pic
Kim Pan Gon. - NSTP file pic

KUALA LUMPUR: Harimau Malaya are expected to have no problem reaching the 2024 AFF Cup semi-finals but coach Kim Pan Gon could face a headache to set up a formidable team.

Malaysia, ranked No. 138 in the world, are the second highest ranked team in Group A behind No. 101 Thailand.

The other nations in the group are Singapore (No.155), Cambodia (No.179) and the winners of the qualifying round between Brunei (No.194) and Timor Leste (No.198).

Group B consists of Vietnam (No.115), Indonesia (No.134), Philippines (No.141), Myanmar (No.163) and Laos (No.190)

Pan Gon however is expected to lose the services of players from Johor Darul Ta'zim and Selangor who will be occupied with the Asian Champions League (ACL) Elite and ACL 2, respectively, which clash with the AFF Cup scheduled from Nov 23 - Dec 21.

"Interesting draw... we face Thailand, the last edition's champion and another charge is Singapore, our neighbour, we also face Cambodia, and also another team from the qualifiers," said South Korean Pan Gon after the draw.

"We will try to get the best manpower, the best team to fight in the AFF Cup."

Pan Gon's men met Thailand in the last edition of the AFF Cup in 2022, where they won the first leg of the semi-final 1-0 in Bukit Jalil but were knocked out on 3-1 aggregate after losing the return leg 3-0 in Bangkok.

At that time, JDT didn't release their players as the AFF Cup was not under the Fifa calendar, and the Southern Tigers wanted their players to focus on their pre-season.

Since the inception of the AFF Cup in 1996, Malaysia have won the title only once, back in 2010 under coach Datuk K. Rajagobal, after beating Indonesia. Malaysia emerged runner-up in 1996, 2014 and 2018.

Thailand remain the most successful team with seven titles (1996, 2000, 2002, 2014, 2016, 2020 and 2022), followed by Singapore with four titles (1998, 2004, 2007, 2012), and Vietnam with two titles (2008 and 2018).