KUALA LUMPUR: Tajikistan are no Brazil or Germany but at world No. 116, they are ranked 42 spots above Malaysia and will provide valuable lessons for the national football team when the two meet in a friendly match at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil today.
Malaysia coach Tan Cheng Hoe said the match would also be a good test for his men as they prepare for their 2022 World Cup-2023 Asian Cup Group G qualifying matches against Thailand on Nov 14 and Indonesia on Nov 19 at the National Stadium.
Tajikistan also have six points after their first three qualifying matches in Group F, with 1-0 wins over Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia before a 0-3 defeat to Japan.
“We can see from their World Cup qualifiers, their intensity, quality and physicality. Their speed is also very good and these are things our players can learn from the match, ” said Cheng Hoe during the pre-match press conference at the National Stadium here yesterday.
“Playing against a team that are ranked higher than us will do the players good because I want to see them improve.
“These high-level friendly matches are hard to come by, so they must take the opportunity and learn technical skills and also experience the intensity of the match.
“They will also learn to play as a unit, attack and defend together as a team.”
Cheng Hoe said he was still looking for the right combination of players and the right formula for his team.
The Harimau Malaya are currently in fourth place in Group G with three points from three matches. They started off with a 3-2 win over Indonesia, but fell 1-2 to the UAE and 0-1 to Vietnam.
Among the areas the former Kedah coach is looking to experiment with is the midfield, especially after recalling his captain Baddrol Bakhtiar and Johor Darul Ta’zim’s Afiq Fazail. The duo will give Cheng Hoe more options.
The other midfielders are Syamer Kutty Abba, Safawi Rasid, Akhyar Rashid (all JDT), Azzizan Nordin (Sabah), Brendan Gan (Perak), Nor Azam Azih, Mohamadou Sumareh (Pahang), Farhan Roslan (Kedah) and Daniel Amier Norhisham (Felda United).
“As a coach, I’m still trying to find our best 11 and at the same time give the other players a chance to play.
“Afiq and Baddrol will give us a good indication of the depth of our team because against Vietnam, the midfield didn’t play too well.
“But I’m sure this game against Tajikistan will be a different ball game and it will definitely give the players motivation before the match against Thailand.”