JOHOR BARU: It is a test of nerves for both national coach K. Rajagopal and the players in tonight's friendly international football match against Indonesia at the Pasir Gudang Stadium.
The match is a warm-up for the Malaysians ahead of their second match in the pre-World Cup against Kuwait at the Darulmakmur Stadium in Kuantan on March 31.
Malaysia have to beat Kuwait to keep alive their hopes of advancing from Group Four, which also have China in the fray. In the opening match on Feb 18, Malaysia crashed 1-3 to Hong Kong.
It is good to get a match before we play against Kuwait. Indonesia have a strong team and our matches against them have always been close, said Rajagopal.
Malaysia drew 1-1 with Indonesia in a friendly match at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil last September. In the 2001 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia won 2-1.
The Indonesians, who have qualified for the Asian Cup Finals in Beijing in July, are also preparing for their pre-World Cup match against Turkmenistan on March 31.
The Indonesian side, coached by Bulgarian Ivan Kolev, have well-known names, among them Bambang Pamungkas, Kurniawan Dwi Yulianto, Agung Setiabudi, Firmansyah and Aples Tecuari.
Against the Indonesians, Rajagopal hopes that his team will concentrate full on the match and play with more purpose and urgency.
A lot of has been said about our defeat by Hong Kong. We have to put the defeat behind and look forward, he said.
The match against Indonesia will be a good test for us. The Indonesians have qualified for the Asia Cup Finals and this speaks of their strength. A good result against Indonesia will give us more confidence against Kuwait.
But it will be no smooth sailing for Rajagopal and company.
Several of his players, including influential midfielder Tengku Hazman Raja Hassan, are non-starters for the match. Tengku Hazman came down with an ankle injury three days ago.
The others carrying injuries are midfielders Gilbert Cassidy Gawing and Wong Sai Kong and striker Liew Kit Kong.