Southeast Asian Nations on Asia Cup 2023: An Analysis

The Asia Cup football is now more than just a ceremonial event. It  has undergone a remarkable transformation. Once dismissed by even the most ardent football fans in Asia,  it ascended to the status of a major international football competition, capturing the attention of enthusiasts worldwide. Several factors contribute to this newfound prominence, including the impressive performance of Asian teams in the World Cup, the rising number of Asian players in European leagues, and the notable entry of football icon Cristiano Ronaldo into the Asian scene.

The upcoming 2023 AFC Asian Cup, the 18th edition of the quadrennial tournament, serves as a testament to this heightened status. Organized by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), this edition includes 24 national teams following the expansion in 2019, with Qatar defending their title. Noteworthy is the participation of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam—each having hosted the event in 2007—as hosts. Despite the substantial fanbases in these countries, Southeast Asia is often perceived as having weaker contenders in the Asia Cup.

Even though Southeast Asian countries have not always been thought of as strong competitors, each edition of the event promises an exciting atmosphere, compelling games, and the possibility of unexpected feats on the field. In light of its impending approach, we evaluate each Southeast Asian nation’s chances  in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. 


Fifa Ranking:  94

Coach: P Troussier

Vietnam, the top-ranked team in Southeast Asia, finds itself in Group D alongside Japan, Iraq, and Indonesia for the upcoming AFC Asian Cup. 

Pham Tuan Hai, the star striker of Vietnam’s football team, is poised to make a substantial impact in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. At 23 years old and playing for Hanoi FC, Hai gained prominence in Southeast Asian football with a standout performance in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup quarter-finals. Additionally, Filip Nguyen, recently granted Vietnamese citizenship, is recognized as one of the country’s most valuable players according to “Transfermarkt”. The growing anticipation surrounding Hai’s performance and the influence he will wield on Vietnam’s journey adds to the tournament’s intrigue. And the coach has  a great career with teams like Japan and Qatar can contribute to the team’s success.

Despite being grouped with formidable opponents in Iraq and Japan, Vietnam has a recent history of success, including reaching the quarter-finals in the 2019 Asian Cup. The team’s achievements in the 2017 U17 World Cup qualification and the silver medal in the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship demonstrate their youth level improvement. While Iraq and Japan pose tough challenges, Vietnam’s Chances are mild to the second round and Their recent five matches have seen only one  victory, that was against the Philippines.

Prediction :Group Stage.


Fifa Ranking:  113

Coach: Masatada Ishii

Thailand has earned its status as the most successful football team in Southeast Asia, clinching seven AFF Championship trophies and securing the highest number of senior-level gold medals at the Southeast Asian Games among its regional counterparts. While the team achieved a notable third-place finish in the 1972 AFC Asian Cup when hosting the event, their overall records include seven appearances in the AFC Asian Cup. Despite successful runs in the 1990 and 1998 Asian Games, as well as two appearances in the Summer Olympics, Thailand has faced challenges in making a mark on the continental and global stage. It wasn’t until the 2007 AFC Asian Cup that the team secured its first victory, and a breakthrough occurred in 2019, marking the end of a 47-year wait to advance beyond the group stage.

As Thailand enters Group C in the upcoming AFC Asian Cup alongside Saudi Arabia, Kyrgyzstan, and Oman, it faces teams with higher rankings. Over the last five matches, Thailand secured only one victory. Despite this, the team is led by a Japanese coach with a commendable track record, including J1 titles and FIFA club runner-up medals. The pre-quarter prospect from this group presents a favorable opportunity for the Thai team to showcase their capabilities.

Prediction : Possible Second Round.


Fifa Ranking:  130

Coach: Kim Pan-Gon

Since assuming leadership of the Malaysia national team at the beginning of 2022, the 54-year-old head coach has been diligently instilling a belief in his players, emphasizing their capability to defend aggressively and play with a proactive approach. Under his guidance, Malaysia has made significant strides, ascending from the 154th position in the FIFA rankings when Kim assumed control to the current 130th spot. However, despite this progress, Malaysia remains perceived as an outsider in Group E, which includes formidable opponents like Jordan, Bahrain, and Kim’s homeland, South Korea.

Historically, Malaysia has never advanced to the second round of the AFC Asian Cup, but there is a sense of anticipation surrounding the resurgence of “Harimau Malaya” this time. Both Jordan and Bahrain boast higher rankings than Malaysia, yet Kim Pan Gon asserts that the pressure is on Malaysia’s opponents, as they will be expected to secure a win. For Malaysia, achieving a draw would be considered a positive outcome. Kim emphasizes the importance of maintaining a tight defensive game and excelling in set pieces to capitalize on the pressure their opponents may feel.

While aiming for the elusive second round, Kim’s focus lies not only on tactical preparation but also on maintaining the mental resilience and confidence of the Malaysian team throughout the tournament.

 Prediction : Group Stage.


Fifa Ranking:  146

Coach: Shin Tae-yong

Indonesia has been placed in Group D alongside Japan, Iraq, and fellow Southeast Asian nation Vietnam for the upcoming tournament. A noteworthy target for Indonesia would be to reach the second round, adding to the nation’s football history. The team holds the distinction of being the first Asian representative in the FIFA World Cup, making their debut in the 1938 edition as the Dutch East Indies. Unfortunately, their sole appearance ended in a 6–0 defeat to eventual finalists Hungary in the first round.

Despite participating in the AFC Asian Cup five times, Indonesia has yet to progress beyond the group stage in the last four tournaments. However, they did achieve a remarkable bronze medal at the 1958 Asian Games in Tokyo. In a bid for rejuvenation and inspired by the success of Park Hang-seo in Vietnam, the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) appointed Shin Tae-yong as the coach to lead the team in the upcoming 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualification.

Under Shin Tae-yong’s management, the senior team underwent significant restructuring, incorporating numerous young players, many of whom emerged from the Indonesia national under-23 football team. The team’s youthful energy was evident as Indonesia reached the 2020 AFF Championship final with an average player age of 23. In a surprising turn, Indonesia secured a 2–1 victory against the host and former Asian champions Kuwait in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualification, marking the first official win by a Southeast Asian team against a West Asian host since 2004.

The final qualification match saw Indonesia dominate with a resounding 7–0 victory over Nepal at the Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium, earning them a spot in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup after a 16-year absence. In a notable friendly match on June 19, 2023, Indonesia hosted the 2022 FIFA World Cup champions, Argentina, as part of their preparations for the upcoming 2026 FIFA World Cup qualification. Despite holding their ground against the world champions, a long strike from Leandro Paredes secured a 1–0 win for Argentina just before halftime. In the second half, Cristian Romero’s header extended the lead to 2–0 for the Argentines. Although Indonesia may be considered low-ranked, their potential for a magical performance on the grand stage is undeniable.

Prediction : Possible Second Round.