PETALING JAYA: Striker Safawi Rasid finally ended his four-month goal drought with the national team, and with his appetite now whetted, he is looking for more.
The Dungun-born lad scored a sensational goal in the 72nd minute to help the Harimau Malaya edge higher-ranked Tajikistan 1-0 in a friendly match at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Saturday.
Coming on as a substitute, he fired a left-footed strike to the top corner of the goal after a run down the flank to give Malaysia the win. The Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) star last got his name on the scoresheet with a brace in Malaysia’s 7-1 victory over Timor Leste in the first round of the 2022 World Cup-2023 Asian Cup qualifiers on June 7.
Saturday’s goal was a good sign ahead of their next 2022 World Cup-2023 Asian Cup Group G qualifying matches against Thailand on Thursday and Indonesia (Nov 19) at the National Stadium.
“I could not score for the national team in our last few matches, so I was trying very hard to break the duck. I am grateful to all those who supported me... I’m very happy to get back my scoring touch, ” said 22-year-old.
“This goal is a good motivation for me and gives me more confidence against Thailand and Indonesia.”
Malaysia need positive results against Thailand and Indonesia to keep alive their hopes of reaching the 2023 Asian Cup.
The Harimau Malaya are currently in fourth place in the five-team group with three points from three matches. Thailand top the group with seven points with a better goal difference ahead of Vietnam. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) are third with six points while Indonesia are still without a point.
Safawi, who emerged as the top scorer of the 2019 Malaysia Cup with 11 goals, is optimistic the Harimau Malaya can rediscover their winning touch.
The team kicked off their Group G campaign with a 3-2 win over Indonesia on Sept 5 before narrowly losing their next two matches - 1-2 to UAE on Sept 10 and 0-1 to Vietnam on Oct 10.
“We created a lot of opportunities but we couldn’t convert it... we need to improve our finishing in our upcoming matches, ” said Safawi.
“Our strength is attacking from the wings... our wingers combine well with our rightback and leftback and we can inflict damage on our opponents with this combination.”
Safawi has scored eight goals in 25 appearances for the national team
since 2016 but he is modest about it, saying it would not have happened without his teammates’ help.
Meanwhile, coach Tan Cheng Hoe has dropped three players from the 26-player training squad.
The three dropped are Farhan Roslan (Kedah), Nazirul Naim Che Hashim (Perak) and Shahrel Fikri Mohd Fauzi (Perak).
Shahrel is nursing an injury while Farhan could not adapt to the team in short notice. Nazirul is dropped as the left back position is occupied by Corbin Ong and Syazwan Andik.
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