Cheng Hoe wants players to sacrifice Raya celebration for 2020 WC qualifier

Calm before the storm: National coach Tan Cheng Hoe posing for a photograph during the 2020 World Cup qualifiers draw at the AFC House in Bukit Jalil yesterday. — RAJA FAISAL HISHAN/The Star

BUKIT JALIL: National coach Tan Cheng Hoe has asked his charges to sacrifice their Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration when duty calls.

Malaysia will take on Timor Leste in the first qualifying round for the 2022 World Cup in a two-leg fixture with the first scheduled on June 6 in Kuala Lumpur and the return in Timor Leste on June 11.

And the date for the first leg coincides with the second day of Hari Raya.

Former international Cheng Hoe said he understands the significance of the Hari Raya celebration and hopes the players stay focused on the match against Timor Leste.

“We need the players to be focused on this game and they have to sacrifice their celebration with their family this time,” he said after the draw at the AFC House here yesterday.

“I’m positive about the draw and we need to win this tie.

“We need to be well prepared for this game and I really hope to get the players’ full commitment.”

The winner of the two-leg tie will join 34 other Asian nations in the second qualifying round which also doubles as the qualification for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.

This will be the second time the Harimau Malaya will face 195th-ranked Timor Leste in a World Cup qualification tie, with Malaysia emerging 7-1 winners on aggregate in 2015.

Malaysia, ranked 168th, last met Timor Leste in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifying playoff round in 2016, winning 6-0 on aggregate.

The 50-year-old Cheng Hoe said lower-ranked teams have nothing to lose and his men should not look down on Timor Leste.

He also added that the possibility of playing the second leg in Malaysia due to Timor Leste lacking facilities at their home ground is another good sign for his team.

“Timor Leste are not going to be easy opponents, they have nothing to lose in this game. So I expect them to go all out against us,” said Cheng Hoe.

“The centralised training camp for the team is expected to be earlier than the usual two weeks because we need to train during the fasting month.”


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