Malaysia will avoid regional powerhouse Thailand in the year-ending AFF Suzuki Cup group stage, unlike the previous two editions where the defending champions and runners-up met in the round-robin.
The AFF Suzuki Cup draw on August 2 will place Malaysia and Thailand in Pot 2, allowing them to avoid each other in the group stage.
The two countries are the top seeds of the 2016 edition due to their performance in the previous two years, where Thailand won the 2014 edition and finished runners-up in 2012 while Malaysia were runners-up last time out and reached the last-four four years ago.
In the 2014 edition, 2012 finalists Singapore and Thailand were drawn in group B while 2010 finalists Malaysia and Indonesia faced each other in Kuala Lumpur.
Asean Football Federation (AFF) general-secretary Datuk Azzuddin Ahmad confirmed Indonesia – who were under a FIFA ban from June 2015 to last May – will gain automatic entry into the competition and will be placed in Pot 4 alongside a qualifier.
Indonesia are ranked sixth in the AFF ranking but there were suggestions that the Garudas may have to go through the qualifiers as seventh-ranked Myanmar have an automatic spot by virtue of being co-hosts.
Previously the qualifying round offered two places in the tournament proper. Laos, Timor Leste, Cambodia and Brunei compete in the qualifiers in Cambodia in October.
The 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup commences on November 19 and the two-legged final on December 14 and 17.
Pot 1: Philippines & Myanmar
Pot 2: Thailand & Malaysia
Pot 3: Singapore & Vietnam
Pot 4: Indonesia & Qualifier
Read more at http://www.fourfourtwo.com/my/news/aff-suzuki-cup-draw-malaysia-avoid-thailand-group-stage#g3A81e7jCgT0qXEb.99