PETALING JAYA: Malaysia suffered a blow as they will play without striker Syafiq Ahmad (pic) in the return leg against Timor Leste tomorrow at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
The Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) player has been ruled out for at least two weeks due to medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury.
The 23-year-old was stretchered out in the 12th minute in their first-leg 7-1 win during the joint 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup preliminary qualification on Friday.
Malaysia coach Tan Cheng Hoe said he would look at other options.
“Syafiq has been confirmed with MCL after a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. He’ll need two to three weeks of rest,” said Cheng Hoe.
“It’s a big blow. He is a valuable player as he plays a key role in our attacking movements.
“I’ve one more day of training to decide the replacement for Syafiq.”
Cheng Hoe has the option of choosing from veteran striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, Shahrel Fikri Md Fauzi, Faisal Halim or Faiz Nasir.
“I may reshuffle the line-up. We’ll keep the same way of playing because that’s our way of moving forward in the game.
“There will be no change of tactics, just a change of players.”
The disparity of standard between Malaysia and Timor Leste in the first-leg was glaring as Harimau Malaya were far superior in all parts of the game.
A repeat of such performance during the qualifying campaign would be great for the national team’s confidence and Cheng Hoe is hoping for the boys to churn out consistent performances.
“I’m positive and I believe we are on the right track. We’ll be facing the best teams in Asia in the second round,” he said.
“We’ve got the right mix of young and senior players. I’m building this team for the future, and I see a good balance in the team,” he added.
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