Philippines midfielder Iain Ramsay has claimed that Thailand are his country’s main rivals ahead of the AFF Suzuki Cup draw in Jakarta on May 2.

Australia-born Ramsay made his debut for the Philippines in 2015 and got his first taste of Suzuki Cup action a year later when the Azkals narrowly missed out on qualifying for the semi-finals.

With the group stage draw for the 2018 edition set to take place in the Indonesian capital in a matter of days, the Felda United man has earmarked Thailand, who claimed a 1-0 win over the Philippines in 2016, as the biggest obstacle at the regional tournament.

“It will be interesting to see who we are drawn against in the group stage, but there is no team in particular that we want to avoid,” insisted Ramsay, who moved to Malaysia’s Felda United from Ceres Negros in the Philippines at the beginning of the year.

“I’d say Thailand are our biggest rivals in the region. The Philippines have been so close to the final in the past and Thailand have been the wall that’s prevented us getting there.

“Our goal will be simply to win the group and advance to the next stage. But it’s a great opportunity this year for us to get the better of them.”

Tournament minnows in the early years of the Suzuki Cup, the Philippines have shown marked improvement since 2010, from when they have reached the semi-finals on three successive occasions until exiting at the group stage in 2016.

Not only have the side been on the up regionally, but also on the continent as the Azkals were undefeated in the third round of AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 qualifiers to advance to the tournament for the first time.

“Qualifying for the Asian Cup has shown that the national team is on the rise. It has instilled a lot of confidence in our team and I believe we can go a long way in the Suzuki Cup,” added Ramsay.

“We are definitely looking forward to it as we are in a really good place right now and we are hungry for success.”

The upcoming edition of the competition features some changes from recent years as the group stage will see teams play two matches at home and two away, rather than it being staged in a centralised location.

Thailand and Malaysia are potential group stage opponents for the Philippines, meaning Ramsay could be handed the opportunity to take on his stated rivals and face a number of his club teammates in what would be an intriguing draw for the 30-year-old.

“It’s great that the format has changed as it keeps the Suzuki Cup exciting and interesting for fans and players,” he admitted.

“It would definitely be great to play against Malaysia as it would make for an exciting match and it would be nice to come up against some familiar faces.

“Playing against my Felda teammate Wan Zack would be a nice moment for both of us.”