Nightmare in Abu Dhabi still haunts Davies as UAE loom


Creating history: Matthew Davies (left) vying with Indonesia’s Ruben Sanadi during their 2022 World Cup-2023 Group G qualifying match at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Thursday. — AP

KUALA LUMPUR: For Matthew Davies, watching Malaysia being mauled 10-0 by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2015 was an unforgettable nightmare.

The national team, led by then coach Dollah Salleh, were clueless and couldn’t cope with the UAE’s game plan as they were torn to shreds at the Mohamed Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. It’s the heaviest defeat in Malaysian football history.

“I remember – it was my first international call-up. I sat on the bench and watched the game. It was obviously devastating for the entire team,” said Matthew, who was 20 at the time.

The Harimau Malaya will face UAE in the second round of the 2022 World Cup-2023 Asian Cup Group G qualifying match at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Tuesday and the demons of 2015 are being rekindled by some of the fans.

Now playing for Tan Cheng Hoe, the Pahang rightback dispelled the negative thoughts, stressing that Malaysia have a completely new team now and they are eager to create new history for the country.

“There are lots of fresh faces that will bring energy and optimism,” he said.

“Everyone is looking forward to the way we play and compete as a team.”

Malaysia’s only victory over the Gulf nation in seven meetings was in 1980 when the side coached by Karl Heinz Weigang beat UAE 2-0 at the Al Sadaqua Walsalam Stadium in Kuwait.

“It’s similar to the Indonesian game. They said we haven’t won there in a long time, so I think it’s important to stay positive and not think about the history.

“We’re focusing on creating a new history for ourselves. We’re going to do our best to win.”

Many fans fear that Malaysia will succumb to the UAE, who are ranked 65th in the world and coached by Bert van Marwijk, a World Cup runner-up with Holland in 2010.

And with players like Omar Abdulrahman and Ali Mabkhout, Malaysia will have to be on their toes if they want to get a result.

But Matthew is optimistic that the boys can pull off a shock result on Tuesday.

“We’re not going to defend or anything. We want a result against the UAE, whether it’s a win or a draw.

“I think we have to be positive and optimistic. Their rankings are a lot higher than us but we are a good squad and can play good football.

“We must go out there and not fear them.”

Malaysia last played the UAE in a 2018 World Cup qualifying match, losing 1-2 at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.


Matthew Davies

   

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