Despite their status as runners-up from the previous edition of the AFF Suzuki Cup, Malaysia coach Tan Cheng Hoe is not bothered by the fact that his charges have not been billed as one of the pre-tournament favourites but is instead hoping they will surprise the doubters.
Having lost to Vietnam 3-2 on aggregate in the 2018 final, Malaysia will once again lock horns with the defending champions in Group B of this year's Suzuki Cup as well as with fierce rivals Indonesia, along with games against Cambodia and Laos.
- Polking: Winning AFF Suzuki Cup is Thailand's clear target
- Where are they now: Vietnam's reigning AFF champions from 2018
- Don't miss The John Dykes Show, with all new episodes each Friday starting Dec. 3 on Disney+ Hotstar. Click here to join the conversation!
Speaking alongside his counterparts at Saturday's pre-tournament press conference, Tan agreed with the sentiment that Vietnam and Thailand are the favourites for the tournament, which kicks off in Singapore on Dec. 5.
"Definitely, the favourites are Vietnam or Thailand," said Tan. "But every tournament is also definitely very important for Malaysia, not just for myself but for the pride of our country. I hope we can do something to surprise and I'm sure my players are each dreaming to achieve something.
"I only have eight players from the 2018 team and we know from our previous experiences that facing Vietnam is always a tough test for us. I'm sure we have been learning and the mission will be to get a positive result against Vietnam.
"But it's not just about Vietnam in Group B. All our matches will be very tough."
Vietnam coach Park Hang-seo was come under some criticism for his perceived overly-defensive approach and was in no mood to suffer fools gladly.
Asked whether his side would be showing more attacking intent at the Suzuki Cup, he curtly replied: "You will find out about our approach when we play the matches."
Nonetheless, the South Korean did concede that Vietnam were currently looking to emerge from a difficult moment.
"Losing six games in a row in the final qualification for the World Cup obviously has a big effect on the players," he added. "Mentally, it's a very difficult moment and there's also the pressure of defending our trophy.
"With so many good teams in this tournament, we cannot predict how far we can go but we will do our best to get a good result."
Another team hoping to reach the semifinals from Group B is Indonesia, who hold the unwanted tournament record as the country with most runners-up finishes have lost five finals without ever going all the way.
But coach Shin Tae-yong, who led South Korea at the 2018 World Cup, refused to be drawn into the possibility of them finally ending a 25-year title drought.
"We cannot promise right here right now that we can win it," said Shin to ESPN.
"If we do our best in every single match, I believe good results will come our way. That's what I can promise."