KUALA LUMPUR, June 3 – Malaysia is ready to kick-start their campaign in Dubai with the right attitude, focus, and composure against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in an extremely difficult game at the Zabeel Stadium in Dubai later today (Friday, about 12.45 am Malaysian time).
The Harimau Malaya is mentally and physically ready – having beefed up the team with new names like Kuching-born Dion Johan Cools (defender), Brazilian hitman Guilherme de Paula and Kosovo-born playmaker Liridon Krasniqi.
Put aside the past results, including the 10-0 mauling by UAE in 2015 in Dubai and the recent 4-1 defeat to Kuwait and 2-0 defeat to Bahrain in the two friendlies that were lined up for Tan Cheng Hoe and his Tigers as part of their training stint in the Middle East.
As usual, we get negative and positive comments from football critics on the team but the Tigers, including Cheng Hoe are undeterred. Cheng Hoe is also aware that goals will be hugely significant.
Guilherme scored the only goal against Kuwait. He did not play against Bahrain as he was not eligible due to FIFA’s residential qualifications and fell short by a couple of days. The Brazilian is now eligible to play in the qualifiers.
“We need to focus on ourselves. It is an extremely difficult game in many ways but we are mentally and physically ready,” said Cheng Hoe adding that it is a new journey for the Harimau Malaya.
”The friendly matches against Kuwait and Bahrain served their purpose in many ways. After the big defeat to Kuwait, we did better against Bahrain but lost due to individual mistakes that cost dearly.”
Utility player Dion Cools has given Cheng Hoe many options, especially in defense while Krasniqi and Guilherme have added bite in their respective departments.
Harimau Malaya go into the fray with a lack of preparations compare to their rivals.
The match against Kuwait was Malaysia’s first in 18 months following the clampdown in the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The pandemic did make it hard for Cheng Hoe but he is not using that as an excuse and has called on his charges to be “committed and focused” in their game.
What is more pleasing for Cheng Hoe is that Dion Cools has settled down fast with his new teammates – having joined Harimau Malaya in Dubai after the match against Bahrain.
For the record, in the first round, Malaysia defeated Indonesia 3-2 in Jakarta on Sept 5 2019; lost 1-2 to UAE in Kuala Lumpur on Sept 10; lost 0-1 to Vietnam in Hanoi on Oct 10 and beat Thailand 2-1 at home on Nov 14.
In the second round, Malaysia defeated Indonesia 2-0 in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 19.
Malaysia’s other matches in Dubai are against Vietnam (June 11) and Thailand (June 15). Without a doubt, goals will be hugely significant for Cheng Hoe and the company in Dubai. It starts with the UAE match.
As naturalised Gambia-born Malaysian, Mohamadou Sumareh aptly said the pressure is on UAE.
*(Pic credit to FAM Media)

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