PETALING JAYA: National team skipper Aidil Zafuan Abdul Razak is rallying his troops now that the new dates for the 2022 World Cup-2023 Asian Cup qualifying campaign have been announced by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
The AFC have confirmed the new dates for the postponed qualifiers which will now be completed by November.
The Harimau Malaya will resume their Group G qualifiers against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Abu Dhabi on Oct 8, followed by a home fixture against Vietnam on Oct 13 before concluding the campaign against Thailand in Bangkok on Nov 17.
The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) are looking at a quarantine-based centralised training to get the team back into shape after the enforced inactivity since March 16.
The 33-year-old Aidil is staying positive despite the long break.
“We can beat anyone, but we need to be single-hearted and fight for each other. We can’t be afraid of stronger teams. If we can fight as a team, we will get the results.”
“We have three big matches to play and we have a good chance to advance to the next stage of the qualifiers. My mindset is always the same which is being positive, ” said the 33-year-old defender.
“Players may have their own opinions on joining quarantine-like centralised training camp, but for me, the standard operating procedures (SOP) set by FAM and the authorities are good enough.”
“Safety is a major concern and if there are players who refuse to join training, it’s their call and we need to respect it.”
Coach Tan Cheng Hoe’s men are placed second in the group with nine points behind Vietnam with 11.
Thailand are third with eight points, followed by UAE with six and a game hand, while Indonesia are placed bottom of the group without a single point.
The national team, however, will have to play catch-up in training as Vietnam, UAE, and Thailand are expected to be in better shape for the qualifiers.
The Vietnam league resumed last month, Thai clubs have been training even when their league was suspended. UAE football is also set to resume on June 10, while the M-League has been proposed to restart in September.
“UAE and Vietnam have started their season early. They will have better match fitness. We, on the other hand, still don’t know when the M-League will start, ” said the Johor Darul Ta’zim stalwart.
“Once we are called up for the national training camp, we need to adapt quickly to get match fitness. We will need warm-up matches in training and also friendly games before we play UAE and Vietnam.”
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