Bring home the title, Tigers!

  • The Gaffer
  • Saturday, 20 Dec 2014

The Malaysian national team posing for a photo after a training session. - Filepic

"Macha, Malaysia boleh menang dengan Thailand tak?" (Macha, can Malaysia beat Thailand or not?).

I was at a restaurant and a stranger sitting beside me asked me this question while the first-leg AFF Suzuki Cup final game was going on.

I just said, "Boleh abang kalau mental kuat." (They can win if their mental strength is strong).

Malaysia played well in the first-half but they just switched off in the second-half.

Somehow, I disappointed the "abang" by giving him some hope. We were humbled in the second-half and we just couldn't stop the Thai train. The young Thais were just imperious in the second-half (Mind you, they don't have La Liga-based striker Teerasil Daengda in their squad).

Malaysians who watched the match would have been disappointed with the 2-0 score line. An away goal would have been great but our players were weak against Kiatisuk Senamuang's team.

Our attack was toothless, our midfield was clueless and our defence, especially Mohd Fadhli Shas, was hopeless.

We gave far too much space for the Thais to dictate play in the second-half. Led by the charismatic Charyl Chappuis, their passing was flawless. Their wingers Chanathip Songkrasin and Sarach Yooyen constantly tormented Zubir Azmi and S. Kunalan and their defence was resolute in stopping the likes of Norshahrul Idlan Talaha and Indra Putra Mahayuddin.

Now it is round two and the Thais will hope to consolidate their lead in our fortress. Malaysia will look to trounce the Thais at the Bukit Jalil Stadium but they know it is going to be an uphill task.

Simple, Thailand is a brilliant side when they click. Many people are sharing the 27-pass move they made against Malaysia and some say it is equivalent to FC Barcelona's "tiki-taka" move. Thai fans have called it the "tick-tock" move!

They are capable of doing so if our side is not compact enough. Dollah Salleh needs his midfield to work extra hard and stop their movement. The defence will also have to be on their toes and I just hope Fadhli will be able to replicate his 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup form.

Maybe Dollah should start Gary Steven Robbat together with Safiq Rahim. Robbat has the ability to thwart attacks and when he gets his groove on, he can spray passes like a playmaker. If that happens, I smell goals for Norshahrul.

Thirty five-year-old Mohd Shukor Adan has impressed in this tournament and we need him to be at his best in the second-leg. I'm sure the vocal captain will keep his team-mates on their toes. If we need someone to keep a team organised, Shukor is the man!

Another veteran, Amri Yahyah, will also be a key player in this match and it will be interesting to see how he performs. Many have claimed that he is languid but I'm perplexed why they think so. He doesn't play like Dimitar Berbatov or Juan Roman Riquelme!

He is hardworking, skilful and for a soon to be 34-year-old, he can give the youngsters a run for their money. To me, against Thailand in the first-leg, he was the bright spark together with Indra, who is also 33.

Safiq may be chasing for the golden boot but his main focus should on the title tomorrow. Winning this cup will kick-start another phase for our national team and even though it is just a regional cup, people will start noticing our team again.

To me, Malaysia had a very mixed tournament but one thing is certain, the Tigers have shown that they are no quitters. We nearly lost out a place in the semis but we beat Singapore 3-1 at their home soil in the last group game to qualify for the next stage.

Next up was Vietnam. The nippy Viets beat us at Shah Alam 2-1 but our boys came back strongly in Hanoi by beating them 4-2 to qualify for the final by clinching a 5-4 aggregate.

Now, they have to overturn a 2-0 deficit to win the title they last won four years ago. It is no easy task but I believe, with the home support behind them, our Tigers can do it.

Who knows, we might see a “Smoking Hot” Safee Sali on that day. If any “abang” in the stadium asks me, do we have chance to win this match, my answer would be... "Please pray for our team's victory... At least this will give us some happiness after the MH370 and MH17 tragedies this year."

Many Malaysians will be at the stadium or glued to the television tonight. Young or old, they will want this side to win this tournament. Even the Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said, "It has been a tough year for Malaysia. Let's hope Malaysia will beat Thailand to put some sparkle in our sports."

To all the boys, let's do this for our country! It has been a tough year for all of us. Your win will surely unite all of us and our fans will begin to realise how strong our football team is. Ayuh Harimau Malaya (Come on, Malaya Tigers), win the title in Kuala Lumpur and end 2014 with a bang!

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