THAILAND put their reputation as Southeast Asia's top football-playing nation on the line in the inaugural Tiger Cup, which kicks off in Singapore on Sunday and runs until September 15. The Thais go into the 10-team tournament as favourites after winning the gold medal in the Southeast Asia (SEA) Games in Chiang Mai, Thailand, last December. But they will face fierce competition from host nation Singapore, SEA Games silver medallists Vietnam and from Indonesia, who, like Thailand, have qualified for the Asian Cup (continental championship) in the United Arab Emirates in December. The 10 Tiger Cup teams have been divided into two groups of five, with the top two progressing to the semi-finals. The semi-finals will be held on Friday, September 13, with the final two days later. Matches will be played at the 55,000-capacity National Stadium and also at Jurong. Group A consists of Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Burma and Vietnam, while Group B comprises Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Indonesia and Vietnam are favoured to qualify from Group A and should be joined in the semi-finals by Thailand and Singapore. Thailand beat Vietnam 4-0 in the SEA Games final last December with two-goal performances from midfield playmaker Tawan Sripan and striker Natipong Sritong-in, two of the kingdom's brightest talents. Natipong, born in Bangkok but raised in France, was the leading scorer in the SEA Games with six goals. In the Tiger Cup, Natipong is likely to have a new strike-partner in Pittaya Santiwong, who is top scorer in Thailand's semi-professional Johnnie Walker League with 16 goals for his club, SET. Pittaya caught the eye in a practice match between the Thai national team and Thai club champions Thai Farmers Bank. If Pittaya plays up front, this would mean a midfield role, probably wide on the right, for the player nicknamed the 'Thai Zico' - Kiatisuk Senamuang. Hosts Singapore kick off the Tiger Cup against bitter regional rivals Malaysia on September 1 and will be looking for inspiration from Fandi Ahmad, a national sporting hero in the island state and one of the highest-paid players in Asia, outside Japan. Malaysia, who are now coached by Wan Jamak Wan Hassan following the departure of Frenchman Claude Le Roy at the beginning of the year, will be aiming for a place in the semi-finals after failing to reach the last four in the SEA Games. The lack of quality players in Malaysia is highlighted by the fact that veteran midfielder Dollah Salleh will be the team's playmaker, despite nursing an ankle injury. Wan Jamak said: 'I have only one seasoned playmaker in the team. I must admit it is a gamble but I have no other choice. Dollah is the only one who can open up the game and hold on to the ball.' Indonesia's team is based around their 'Primavera' squad - a group of talented young players who spent two seasons attached to the Sampdoria club in Genoa and playing in Italy's Primavera (youth) League. Their leading player is striker Kurniawan Dwi Julianto, who toured the Far East with Sampdoria two years ago and has been playing for Lucerne in Switzerland.