The Mitsubishi Electric Cup campaign will run from 20th December 2022 to 16 January 2023. Nine of the 11 highest ranked teams will qualify automatically, and the 10th and 11th ranked teams will play in a two-legged qualifier.
The 10 teams, with the winner of the qualifier, will then be split into two groups of five and play in a round-robin system. Each team will host two home games and travel abroad for two away fixtures. The top two teams of each group will then qualify for the semi-finals.
Singapore was placed in Pot three with familiar opponents, Indonesia, based on FIFA rankings and was drawn into Group B. Group B consists of two-time champions Vietnam, one-time champion Malaysia, semi-finalist Myanmar in the 2016 edition and Laos, who is trying to break the deadlock into qualifying for their first semi-final. In the other group, defending champions Thailand was drawn with Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, qualification winner between Brunei and Timor-Leste.
In the previous edition, Singapore qualified for the semi-finals with Thailand topping the group, winning 2-1 against Philippines, 3-0 against Myanmar, 2-0 against Timor-Leste but just lost against Thailand with a score of 2-0. As Singapore emerged as runner-up of the group, the Lions faced the winners of the other group, Indonesia.
It was a closed encounter in the first leg as both teams drew 1-1. A much thunderous and electrifying second leg was one for the Lions and the home crowd to forget, as an eight-men Singapore side fought brilliantly, one for the fans to reminisce the old Kallang stadium vibe until the final whistle. A missed penalty from Faris Ramli in the dying seconds of the game, which could have seen this courageous nine-men Lions side cruising into the finals before the final whistle, gave the Garuda’s a fighting opportunity in extra time to slot pass their winner.
The outcome got even uglier for the Lions as the third red card was awarded for Hassan Sunny in extra time. Ikhsan Fandi valiantly took the role of the team’s goalkeeper. The lions conceded not one but two additional goals, as the Garuda’s comfortably slotted the ball home and left the stadium as finalists. Thailand went on to win the final 6-2 on aggregate to win the 6th title.
Singapore’s appointed head coach, Takayuki Nishigaya, will take the lead of his first crucial regional tournament with the Lions in the AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup. “We will not underestimate any team in the AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup 2022 and are eager to face our group-stage opponents. The team did well to reach the semi-finals in the previous edition and we will aim to give our best again this time and challenge for the trophy, but it is also important to stay focused and take it game by game” mentioned Nishigaya in an interview with Football Association of Singapore (FAS).
Singapore won the competition four times in total (1998, 2004, 2007 and 2012). Previously, the tournament was known as the Tiger Cup from 1996 to 2004, the ASEAN Football Championship in the 2007 edition, and the AFF Suzuki Cup from 2008 to 2020. Due to a change in sponsorship, the upcoming edition will be named AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup, and Singapore will hope to clinch its 5th championship, ending the decade-long drought.
Group A: Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, QR winner
Group B: Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Laos
With all eyes now set on a similar Lions squad following the last Suzuki Cup campaign, there is no doubt that Singapore will qualify for the knockout stages, despite Nishigaya emphasizing that they should not underestimate the opponents in their group. In preparation for the AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup, Singapore will have their pre-season friendlies with Vietnam and India in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.
“We are looking forward to the opportunity to play Vietnam and India, teams that are really strong and will give us the opportunity to further test ourselves as we start our preparations for the AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup” as head coach Nishigaya emphasized the importance of these pre-season friendlies.