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AFF Suzuki Cup Group B preview: Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines to push Thailand

Sven-Goran Eriksson found the challenge of coaching the Philippine Azkals interesting, and team manager Dan Palami is glad the former England manager accepted the offer to lead a developing team in Asian football.

Group B of the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup is, on paper, the tougher of the two groups. ESPN FC takes a look at the five hopefuls:

Thailand

Form: After their exploits during qualification for the 2018 World Cup, the War Elephants -- going for a third successive AFF Cup crown -- have been taking on some African, Caribbean and European opposition recently and have looked pretty good.

Coach: Milovan Rajevac. The Serbian has made Thailand more organised and harder to beat than in the past, though some of the traditional attacking flair has been lost. Happy to name a young and fairly inexperienced squad, Rajevac may have an eye on the Asian Cup in January but his team will not give up their title easily.

Key man: Sumanya Purisai. The Bangkok United playmaker has been in great form this season domestically and could be the man that makes the Thais tick in the coming weeks.

Prospects: Thailand are missing a number of their best players such Chanathip Songkrasin, Teerasil Dangda and Kawin Thamsatchanan as they are busy overseas and can't be called up to this non FIFA-recognised tournament. This young team has what it takes to get out of the group but the title is a different matter.

Indonesia

Form: There was a welcome clash with Iceland in January that ended in a 4-1 defeat but results, though not the standard of opposition, have improved since. The confusion over the coaching situation has not helped.

Coach: Bima Sakti was a late appointment to take over the team in October to succeed Luis Milla, the Spaniard who went missing when the FA looked to offer him a new contract. At just 42, Sakti does not have much experience and has even less time with the team.

Key man: Stefano Lilipaly was an impressive figure at the 2016 edition of the AFF Cup and the Dutch-born midfielder was hard for others to handle with his runs into the area.

Prospects: You never really know what you will get with Indonesia. A first round exit or final appearance as equally as likely. With Thailand not as strong as in the past, Merah Putih will certainly be looking for the knockout stage but the relative inexperience of the team and the coach will be a barrier to a first title.

Singapore

Form: After a tough few years in the city state, the team has actually been winning games of late, though there will be tougher tests than Fiji, Mongolia and Cambodia in the coming days.

Coach: Fandi Ahmad. The one-time golden boy of Singapore football was always going to get the job at some point. Has had some coaching success and his very presence should at least motivate his men. There is also more optimism around these days but Fandi's short-term contract means that he may not be around too long.

Key man: Hariss Harun. To go with a new inspirational coach, the Lions have their inspirational captain. Hariss was around for the 2012 triumph but is still only 27 and should be at the peak of his powers.

Prospects: Singapore should be a little more confident of getting out of the group -- and erasing memories of the nightmarish 2016 edition -- than a few months ago. With more experience than some rivals, the Lions are dark horses.

Philippines

Form: Well, the build-up has been overshadowed by coaching issues with four in the job since June. There have been a number of training camps with mixed results.

Coach: Sven-Goran Eriksson. The Swede needs no introduction but it remains to be seen as to whether his international experience can make a difference in the Philippines especially with his appointment so recent.

Key man: Phil Younghusband. The striker has netted over 50 times for his country but offers more than goals. His experience and ability to lead from the front can be an inspiration. At the age of 31, he may not get a better time to win the title.

Prospects: After the failure of 2016, there is a real determination to achieve success. The absence of star goalkeeper Neil Etheridge due to his Premier League commitments is a blow but there is enough talent to get to the last four and perhaps beyond.

Timor Leste

Form: Came through qualification and earned a creditable 2-2 draw in Cambodia in October.

Coach: Norio Tsukitate. The Japanese tactician has plenty of experience in Asia and has had spells in charge of Laos and Bhutan. Has been in place since May.

Key man: Jorge Sabas Victor is a versatile defensive player and, despite being just 20-years-old, has already been handed the captain's armband. Cool and collected, there will be much responsibility on his shoulders.

Prospects: It would be tough for Timor Leste even if they had not been placed in the tougher of the two groups. Getting a win would be cause for celebration.

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