KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 13 – With their backs against the wall after the “painful” defeat to defending champions Vietnam – their first in three matches – national football coach Tan Cheng Hoe has not given up hope of a semi-final berth in the AFF Suzuki Cup in Singapore.
The Harimau Malaya fell 3-0 and this has left Cheng Hoe and the team in a tight situation. This means Malaysia must beat Indonesia in their final Group B match at the Bishan Stadium on Sunday (Dec 19).
To many, the crushing defeat spells the end of Malaysia’s campaign in the AFF Suzuki Cup. Cheng Hoe, however, begs to differ. As long there is hope Harimau Malaya will be there to keep their challenge.
Cheng Hoe sees light at the end of the tunnel despite the odds.
Skipper Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak and Shahrul Saad picked up hamstring injuries. Aidil lasted only 21 minutes and Shahrul went out after 70 minutes. Of the two, Aidil “looks bad” says Cheng Hoe.
With a week to go before the Indonesia match, Cheng Hoe has a silent prayer for the duo recover. The arrival of Dion Cools in time for the Indonesia match, Cheng Hoe hopes to plus the holes in the shaky backline.
Still reeling from the defeat to Vietnam, Cheng Hoe admits that Malaysia lost the match because the players gave “too much respect” to their opponents.
“All the goals were conceded during transition…a team like Vietnam that played in the World Cup qualifier playoffs had the edge over us. Vietnam capitalised on our shortcomings,” added Cheng Hoe.
However, Cheng Hoe is not letting that demoralising defeat stand in Malaysia’s way when there is still hope.
Malaysia will cling to that hope although netizens have once again got to work and written off the team.
While not wanting to harp on what is said on social media, Cheng Hoe did not hide his disappointment that some individuals have been nailed by the netizens for defeats.
The former international reminded that  “football is a team game” and not individuals.
On a plus note, Cheng Hoe, said Khairul Azhan, Faisal Halim and Quintin Cheng have started training after getting the greenlight from the authorities. The trio were tested positive for Covid-19.
According to Cheng Hoe, all three train separately from the rest of the team.
However, Akhyar Rashid is still isolated. Akhyar was voted the Man of the Match when he helped Malaysia beat Cambodia 3-1 in their opening match on Dec 6.

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