BUKIT JALIL: National football team coach Tan Cheng Hoe has urged his back-up players to stake a claim for first XI places in the absence of the regulars.
The national team’s preparations for the 2022 World Cup-2023 Asian Cup Group G qualifier against Vietnam in Hanoi on Oct 10 have been disrupted by injuries to key players.
And striker Shahrel Fikri Md Fauzi is the latest player to join the crocked list after picking up a groin injury during training yesterday.
The team already have four players – midfielders Nor Azam Azih, J. Partiban, Brendan Gan and defender Shahrul Saad – on the treatment table.
Cheng Hoe said the team’s warm-up match against Sri Lanka at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil tomorrow will be the perfect audition for his back-ups.
“We’ll have to monitor Shahrel’s injury and see if he can play against Sri Lanka. The training looks good, the players are energetic and I’m happy with their commitment in training, ” said the former international.
“I need to look for alternatives and options for the injured players, this would be the best chance for the non-regulars to show what they are capable of.
“I need to give everyone a chance to prove themselves, they all know how the team play. I’ve always told the players not to be pressured whether you’re a regular or a non regular... what’s important is delivering a good performance when you’re playing.”
The 51-year-old coach said the match against Sri Lanka will be vital for the team to rediscover their confidence, momentum and fitness.
The Harimau Malaya kicked off their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 3-2 win over Indonesia on Sept 5 in Jakarta and lost 1-2 to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at home on Sept 10.
Malaysia are now third in Group G with three points, leaders Thailand have four while UAE, who have three points, are second with better goal difference.
Vietnam are fourth with a point and Indonesia are bottom without a point.
“The Sri Lanka game will give us the chance to fix our issues before we play Vietnam. We need to strengthen our attack, because we are creating chances but not scoring a lot, ” said Cheng Hoe.
“The defence also needs to step up as we have conceded five goals from three matches and that’s not a good statistic.”
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