The former Kedah coach has called up his captain Baddrol Bakhtiar and Johor Darul Ta’zim’s Afiq Fazail to keep a tight rein in the centre of the field.
Both players have been producing swashbuckling performances in the Super League and were instrumental in leading their teams to the Malaysia Cup final at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil tomorrow.
Afiq could earn his first cap in the friendly against Tajikistan on Nov 9 while Baddrol is returning to the national fold after a two-year absence.
“These two are playing well and I believe they can stabilise the midfield,” said Cheng Hoe.
“Baddrol has played more than 50 times for the country and his experience will be vital. For Kedah, you can see how he dictates the tempo of the game and scoring crucial goals. Just like Aidil (Zafuan Abdul Razak), we need another old hand to guide the young ones.
“Afiq has performed well as a libero as shown in the Asian Champions Lea-gue. His regional exposure would benefit us.
“But, at the end of the day, all the players must know that the national team thrive on teamwork and harmony. They are key players with their clubs and it’s time they show their worth for the black and yellow jersey.”
After the friendly, three players will be dropped before Malaysia face Thailand on Nov 14 and Indonesia on Nov 19 at the National Stadium.
Kedah winger Farhan Roslan is the other uncapped player called up in the 26-man training squad.
Like Baddrol, JDT’s leftback Syazwan Andik, Kedah goalkeeper Ifwat Akmal Chek Kassim, Pahang midfielder Nor Azam Azih and Perak striker Shahrel Fikri Md Fauzi are also making a return to the national team.
“I selected them because we’ve got two crucial matches. We need a good result against Thailand because they are top of the table.
“As for Indonesia, we shouldn’t be too overconfident although we beat them in our opening match. Although they’ve yet to notch a win, that doesn’t mean they are not good.”
Perak goalkeeper Hafizul Hakim, Kuala Lumpur defender Irfan Zakaria, PKNS midfielder Akram Mahinan and Selangor midfielder Abdul Halim Saari, who were called up for against Vietnam have been omitted this time around.
“They don’t have the game fitness or momentum compared to the other players called up. I’m looking for players who train consistently and those who have seen action in the Malaysia Cup and Challenge Cup knockout stages.“They will be in the reckoning again once they get ample game time.”
THE TRAINING SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Farizal Marlias (JDT), Khairul Azhan Khalid (Selangor), Ifwat Akmal Chek Kassim (Kedah).
Defenders: Matthew Davies (Pahang) Syazwan Andik Ishak, Aidil Zafuan Abdul Razak, Adam Nor Azlin, La’Vere Corbin Ong (JDT), Syahmi Safari (Selangor), Shahrul Saad, Nazirul Naim (Perak), Dominic Tan (Police Tero, Thailand).
Midfielders: Afiq Fazail, Syamer Kutty Abba, Safawi Rasid, Akhyar Rashid (JDT), Azzizan Nordin (Sabah), Brendan Gan (Perak), Nor Azam Azih, Mohamadou Sumareh (Pahang), Baddrol Bakhtiar, Farhan Roslan (Kedah), Daniel Amier Norhisham (Felda United).
Strikers: Shahrel Fikri Md Fauzi (Perak), Syafiq Ahmad (JDT), Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (Pahang).
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