Cheng Hoe, speaking from Penang on Tuesday, however is not willing to be drawn into a confrontation with ‘football experts’ in the social media as he has his hands full to whip the Harimau Malaya into shape for their first international matches in nearly two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
PETALING JAYA, May 11 – National football chief, Tan Cheng Hoe came in for a lot of flak from social media when he announced his squad for Malaysia’s forthcoming matches in Group G of the World Cup 2022/Asia Cup 2023 qualifiers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) next month.
One name that hogged the limelight was Johor Darul Takzim’s Akhyar Rashid as many believe that there are others who should be given chance in the squad instead of the Kedah-born Akhyar.
Critics named Terengganu FC’s Hakimi Abdullah and Faisal Halim as the better choice for national call-up based on their current form with the Turtles.
On the other hand, Akhyar hardly gets any playing time with the Southern Tigers and at times he is not even on the bench in the star-studded JDT squad.
”There is a difference playing in the local league and international tournaments. The intensity level is totally different if we are to compare…and there are reasons when I picked the squad. A lot of factors are taken into account.
“One can shine for his team in the local league but he may not do the same in international matches. At the same time, we have to consider who can fit into our system and the sort of players needed in the squad,” said Cheng Hoe.
Cheng Hoe, however has given two youngsters a break in the senior squad. JDT’s Arif Aiman and Luqman Hakim who is with Belgium club KV Kortrijk.
Meanwhile, Cheng Hoe revealed that any hopes of defender Shahrul Saad getting a last-minute inclusion for the Middle East have disappeared after it was medically confirmed that the player will need more than a month to recover from his knee injury.
The Harimau Malaya squad includes four overseas-based players – Liridon Krasniqi (Newcastle Jets, Australia), Junior Eldstal (Chonburi FC, Thailand), Dominic Tan (Police Tero FC, Thailand) and Luqman Hakim (KV Kortrijk, Belgium).
The four will join the rest of the squad in Dubai on May 20. Malaysia will play two friendly matches – against Kuwait (May 23) and Bahrain (May 28) before playing in the three remaining matches in Group G of the World Cup 2022/Asia Cup 2023 qualifiers.
Malaysia’s remaining matches in Group G which will be held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in June are against UAE (June 3), Vietnam (June 11) and Thailand on June 15.
Malaysia is currently second in the group standings with nine points – two behind leaders Vietnam on 11 points after five matches.
Thailand is third on eight points followed by UAE with six points (from four matches) while Indonesia is without a point after losing all five matches.