Thais meet Timor in Suzuki Cup opener
Thailand will face Timor Leste in their first match at the AFF Suzuki Cup in Singapore next month after Brunei pulled out of the event.
Brunei said they had withdrawn from the qualifier against Timor Leste as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic left them unable to prepare for the Southeast Asian championship.
Brunei had been due to face Timor Leste on Dec 1 in a play-off for a place in the group phase of the championship to be held in Singapore.
The 2020 edition of the regional tournament was postponed due to Covid-19.
"The pandemic has unfortunately had far-reaching effects on our team's preparations for the tournament," said Matusin Matasan, president of Brunei's football association (FABD).
"While all efforts have been put forth to resolve the difficulties, it proved to be too complicated at this late juncture."
Khiev Sameth, president of the Asean Football Federation (AFF), said he was saddened to receive the news but fully understood the decision.
Timor Leste will now play in Group A alongside five-time champions Thailand, hosts Singapore, Myanmar and the Philippines.
Defending champions Vietnam have been drawn in Group B with Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos.
The tournament is due to begin on Dec 5 with the final on Jan 1.
The event is normally played on a home-and-away basis but the AFF has decided to organise the championship in one country due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Thailand are the most successful nation with five wins while Vietnam will defend the title they won on 2018.
The tournament will be Mano Polking's first assignment after being appointed as coach of Thailand a few months ago.
The German-Brazilian coach has vowed to bring the Suzuki Cup back to Thailand.