PETALING JAYA: The Laos football team are fondly known back home as “Power Sticky Rice.”
And they may well prove to be too sticky for Malaysia if their performance against defending champions Vietnam in their opening match on Monday, where they only lost 0-2, is anything to go by.
The Harimau Malaya take on Laos in their AFF Suzuki Cup Group B match at the Bishan Stadium today knowing that they can’t afford a slip-up with stronger opponents Vietnam and Indonesia waiting next.
Malaysia beat Cambodia 3-1 in their opening match on Monday.
Under Singaporean coach V. Selvaraj, Laos operated in an ultra-defensive 5-4-1 formation against Vietnam and showed they were no pushovers. Goalkeeper Keo Souvannasangso even saved a spot-kick while France-born lanky striker Billy Ketkeophomphone was a handful.
Coach Tan Cheng Hoe said he and his backroom staff are analysing Laos’ weaknesses and will come up with a plan to break their defence.
“We observed and analysed the Laos game, they have youngsters who work hard and you can see the result where they only lost 0-2 to Vietnam. They have good team spirit as well,” said Cheng Hoe in the pre-match press conference yesterday.
“Billy impressed against Vietnam, he looks dangerous and sharp. He also works well with the team. They defend well and are compact. We need to find a solution to get a result against them.”
However, Malaysia showed that they have bite upfront as three different players scored in the 3-1 win over Cambodia – Safawi Rasid, Akhyar Rashid and M. Kogileswaran Raj.
Brazil-born striker Guilherme De Paula will also be out to prove a point after being ineffective against Cambodia and was substituted in the 65th minute.
Cheng Hoe said the performance of his substitutes – Kogileswaran, Luqman Hakim Shamsudin, Arif Aiman Hanapi and Shahrel Fikri Mohd Fauzi – in the win over Cambodia is a good sign for them to break into the starting XI today.
“If we look at Laos’ defence, they are compact in their defensive strategy.
“We’re discussing the best formula to get a positive result and it’s not easy.
“The players who came off the bench in the last game – Kogi, Luqman, Arif and Shahrel - gave a good picture of what they can do if given a starting role.
“I also believe De Paula can still perform. Ever since he got his Malaysian passport, his mindset is to give the best for Malaysia. He’s disappointed not to have scored in the last game but after talking to him, he seems to be okay and I believe he can perform for the team.
“Laos were very disciplined against Vietnam, they will be tough to break but since we got off to a good start with the win over Cambodia, we have the confidence to take them on.”