The 2019 AFF U18 Youth Championships have thrown up a number of surprises, with Myanmar and Timor Leste out-performing expectations in Group A while five-time champions Thailand bring up the rear in Group B.
Myanmar and Indonesia lead the way in Group A with four wins from four, securing their qualification from the group stage before they play each other for the top spot in the last round of games.
Despite picking up a respectable six points, Laos and Timor-Leste go into the last place without a chance to qualify for the knockout stage. Timor-Leste, in particular, will be very pleased with their performance in this tournament. Their selection of an incredibly young squad for the recent senior AFF Cup demonstrated their plan to close the gap between themselves and the rest of Southeast Asia through development at Youth levels, and their performance at this tournament shows that this method could have some success.
Elsewhere in Group B, Malaysia and Australia look poised to qualify for the second round after collecting nine points from four games, with hosts Vietnam still in the conversation just two points behind them.
The group’s biggest story, however, has been Thailand. The five-time champions are the most successful team in the history of the competition but have only been able to collect two points from a possible 12.
This is a worrying sign for a side who will be looking to qualify for the FIFA U20 World Cup via the AFC U19 Championships later this year.