CHENG HOE’S AFF SUZUKI CUP DILEMMA CONTINUES

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PETALING JAYA, Dec 2 – Injuries continue to plague the team but national football head coach Tan Cheng Hoe has kept his “cool” – even making last minutes change to the final squad that leaves for Singapore on Friday afternoon.
Latest to cry off from the initial squad of 28 players are Johor Darul Takzim’s Mohamadou Sumareh and Perak goalkeeper Azri Ghani.
Gambia-born Sumareh, a naturalised Malaysian has family commitments that need to be sorted out apart from a groin injury. Azri, who is the national Under-23 goalkeeper is down with shoulder injury.
Cheng Hoe, however, was quick to bring in the replacements. Sumareh’s JDT teammate Arif Aiman Hanapi got the call-up although he is not in the reserve list, while Petaling Jaya FC custodian Kalamullah Al-Hafiz replaced Azri.
”I spoke to Arif during the Malaysia Cup final (JDT against KL City FC) at the National Stadium and he gave a very quick response that he is willing to don Malaysia colors. That made things much easier,” said Cheng Hoe.
Earlier, two players from newly crowned Malaysia Cup champions Kuala Lumpur City FC – Akram Mahinan (groin muscle tear) and Kenny Pallraj (knee ligament tear) threw a spanner in Cheng Hoe’s squad.
The 19-year-old Arif has been a regular with the Southern Tigers and has enough playing minutes to vie for a first team place in Cheng Hoe’s match strategies for the Asean meet.
Malaysia, the 2010 champions, have been drawn in Group B in this year’s tournament that will be held in Singapore from Dec 5 (2021)-Jan 1 (2022). The Harimau Malaya will play their group matches at the Bishan Stadium.
The first match is against Cambodia on Dec 6 followed by Laos (Dec 9), Vietnam(Dec 12) and Indonesia (Dec 19). Vietnam are the defending champions and Malaysia the runners-up in the last edition.
Despite the lack of centralised training due to the tight Malaysia Cup scheduled, players trickled in only after their respective teams failed to make the quarter-finals or the semi-finals, Cheng Hoe made do with the material he had.
Those who played in the Malaysia Cup final on Tuesday (Nov 30), reported only a day later. For the record KL City FC defeated defending champions JDT 2-0 in the final at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
As for Malaysia’s chances in the AFF Suzuki Cup, Cheng Hoe is adopting a positive look and believes he has the team to achieve the initial target of making the semi-finals from the group.
“I have faith in the players. The players have faith in themselves…national dignity and pride takes priority,” added Cheng Hoe.

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