THE Philippine men’s national football team will play in Group A of the 2020 ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup when action kicks off later this year.

In the official virtual draw on Tuesday, the Azkals landed in Group A along with multiple-time winners Thailand and Singapore, and Myanmar, as well as the winner in the qualification round between Brunei and Timor-Leste.

Playing in Group B, meanwhile, are defending champion Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Laos.

The top two teams at the end of group play advance to the crossover knockout semifinals.

Competition happens from Dec. 5, 2021 to Jan. 1, 2022.

“We wish the Philippine Men’s National Team all the best in the upcoming AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 later this year,” said Philippine Football Federation President Mariano Araneta, who, along with General Secretary Edwin Gastanes, attended the draw.

“It will be an interesting competition being held in the midst of the pandemic. Nonetheless, we request all Filipino football fans to rally around our team in its bid to be champion of Southeast Asia’s most prestigious football competition,” he added.

The AFF Suzuki Cup was supposed to take place in 2020, but because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic was deferred first to April this year before being pushed back to December.

In the last edition of the biennial football meet among Southeast Asian nations in 2018, the Azkals advanced to the semifinals after finishing second to Thailand in Group B. They lost to eventual champion Vietnam, 4-2, in aggregate in the semifinals.

The Philippine Azkals last played in June in the second round of the joint 2022 International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) World Cup and 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup Qualifiers.

They fell short of advancing to the next phase of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup, but are through to the third round of the Asian Cup qualifiers. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo