JOHOR BARU: Caretaker coach K. Rajagopal is looking at a much better performance from the national football team when they take on Kuwait in their second pre-World Cup Group Four match at the Darulmakmur Stadium in Kuantan on March 31.
What Rajagopal saw of his team in the goalless draw against Asia Cup Finalists Indonesia in a friendly international at the JCorp Stadium in Pasir Gudang on Wednesday was certainly better than the performance dished out in the 1-3 defeat by Hong Kong in the first match of the qualifiers in Kuantan on Feb 18.
It was a good test for the team and I am happy to note that there was improvement in their play, said Rajagopal.
He added that the players who had recovered from injuries, among them Wong Sai Kong, Shukor Adan, V. Saravanan and Khalid Jamlus, showed positive approach in their game.
The team played a very entertaining game in the last 20 minutes of the match and even pushed forward.
We can expect an even better performance from the team against Kuwait, said Rajagopal.
But I have to admit that we struggled in the first half and showed some soft spots. There were those unnecessary back passes.
The team have to play with discipline and give their full concentration against the Kuwaitis.
Perak striker Khalid played his first international in more than a year after a fallout with the then national coach, Allan Harris.
He gave a good account of himself when he was brought in to replace Nizaruddin Yusof in the second half.
But it was goalkeeper Azmin Azram Abdul Aziz's confident play that warmed the hearts of the Malaysians. The national number one was not fielded against Hong Kong. Then Perak's Hamsani Ahmad played the match.
Rajagopal added that he would have preferred the team to play another warm-up match before they took on Kuwait.
But his hands are tied. The players will return to their teams for the FA Cup matches, which will be played on March 26.
Meanwhile, Indonesia's Bulgarian coach Ivan Kolev was satisfied with his team's overall performance but felt that work needed to be done on their finishing.
Indonesia are also preparing for their second match in the pre-World Cup against Turkmenistan.
They were beaten 0-3 by Saudi Arabia in the opening match.