KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 7 – Naturalised Malaysian Guilherme De Paula is never spared the criticism – no matter what his contribution is to the team but the Brazilian remains an asset in Malaysia’s AFF Suzuki Cup campaign in Singapore.
The 35-year-old Brazilian failed to score in Malaysia’s 3-1 win over Cambodia in their opening Group B match at the Bishan Stadium on Monday and was replaced by Luqman Shamsuddin midway in the second half.
Malaysia scored through Safawi Rasid (penalty, 23rd), Akhyar Rashid (60th) and R. Kogileswaran (79th) while Sath Rosib converted a late penalty for Cambodia.
The win saw Harimau Malaya top the group after Vietnam downed Laos 2-0 in another match at the same venue.
For Cheng Hoe full points off Cambodia is ”morale boosting” considering that his team is ill-prepared for the Asean Championships.
Reports also emerged that De Paula was seen throwing a water bottle at the Malaysian bench after being replaced.
Cheng Hoe, however, said he did not see the incident but had a talk with the Brazilian-born player.
”Critics fail to realise his contribution to the team overall. Scoring is not everything when it comes to teamwork. I know how the player feels under criticism. As the coach it is my duty to acknowledge what his overall contribution for the team,” said Cheng Hoe.
”He (De Paula) may not have scored but his contribution to the team’s overall performance cannot be ignored…even if he did not score. It can be very frustrating to be criticised and it can be contribution factor.
“He is still a valuable asset to the team and he is in my match plans for the coming matches,” added Cheng Hoe after a recovery training session on Tuesday morning.
Malaysia’s next match is against Laos on Thursday (Dec 9) at the same venue. After Laos, Malaysia will take on Vietnam (Dec 12) before playing their final group match against Indonesia on Dec 19.
Cheng Hoe also revealed that Junior Eldstal, who plays for Chonburi FC in the Thai League, was substituted early (25th minute) by Mukhairi Ajmal for tactical reasons.
Vietnam are the defending champions after defeating Malaysia in the two-leg final in 2018. The first-leg in Kuala Lumpur ended in a 2-2 draw and Vietnam won 1-0 at home to take the silverware on a 3-2 aggregate.
Coming back to this year’s AFF Cup, Malaysia suffered an early blow when goalkeeper Khairul Azhan Khalid and flanker Faisal Halim were tested positive after arriving in Singapore. Both players are currently serving a 10-day quarantine in Singapore.
The FA of Malaysia has also made an official request to have a replacement goalkeeper after Khairul Fahmi Che Mat picked a surprise yellow card in the match against Cambodia. The other keeper in the squad in Singapore is Kalamullah Al-Hafiz who plays for Petaling Jaya City FC in the Super League.

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