New captain Mohd Aidil Zafuan Abdul Razak flanked by Junior Eldstal (left) and Safee Sali during training at Wisma FAM.
PETALING JAYA: Tough-tackling centreback Mohd Aidil Zafuan Abdul Razak will skipper Malaysia’s final Asian Cup qualifier Group D match against Yemen at the Sheikh Tahnoon Stadium in Al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates on March 5.
Interim national coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee said the 26-year-old Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) stalwart was picked based on his character and leadership qualities.
“It is not a new role for Aidil. He has captained the national Under-20 and Under-23 sides, too. Being a regular in the national team, I find he is the most suitable candidate to lead the national team,” said Kim Swee, after a training session at the Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya on Thursday.
A surprised Aidil said he is honoured to serve the nation.
“I am ready to serve in any capacity. To get selected and play for the country means a lot to me and now to captain the national team is an even greater responsibility,” said Aidil, who takes over the armband from Safiq Rahim.
Aidil’s first role as captain will be when Malaysia play the visiting Philippines national team in an “A” international friendly at the Selayang Stadium on March 1.
“I am looking forward to my new role as captain. Besides the Asian Cup, there is also the Suzuki Cup Asean Football Federation (AFF) Championships at the end of the year,” said Aidil.
Two regulars on the national team – striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha and defender Razman Roslan will not feature in the game against Yemen.
National team manager Datuk Seri Subahan Kamal said Norshahrul has been granted leave to skip centralised training due to personal reasons, while Razman is recuperating from a hamstring injury.
“We have roped in Mohd Asraruddin Putra Omar to replace Razman in centreback. However, we will not be getting a replacement for Norhshahrul as we have enough strikers on the team – Mohd Amri Yahyah, Mohd Safee Sali, Azamuddin akil and Ahmad Fakri Saarani,” said Subahan.
In the Asian Cup qualifying campaign, Malaysia have four points from five matches and are third in Group D. Bahrain lead the group with 13 points and Qatar are second with 12. Winless Yemen prop up the group. Bahrain and Qatar have qualified for the Finals in Australia in 2015.
The top two teams from the five groups at the end of the home-and-away round-robin qualifiers will automatically make the Finals while the best third-placed side of the five groups will join hosts Australia, defending champions Japan, South Korea and North Korea at the 2015 tournament.
Malaysia have a mathematical chance of qualifying – as the third best-placed team.
At present, Malaysia are ranked fourth. Iraq (Group C) are currently the best third-placed team with six points followed by Lebanon (Group B) with five points while three other teams – Malaysia, Syria (Group A) and Hong Kong (Group E) – are tied on four points each.