PETALING JAYA: Goalkeeper Syamsuri Mustaffa is feeling the heat and he is expected to be the busiest man on the pitch when the national Under-23 boys play against China in a pre-Olympic Asian Finals Group A match at the Wuhan Stadium tomorrow.
China will definitely be fully charged to chalk up their first win in front of their home fans to stay in contention for a place in the Athens Olympics. They were beaten 0-1 by South Korea in an away match on March 3.
The Finals of the Asian qualifiers are played in three groups with the winners making the grade to Athens. And the Koreans are in the driver's seat with two wins in the bag. They also beat Iran 1-0 on Wednesday.
Malaysia in their opening match at home crashed to a 1-4 defeat by Iran.
And Syamsuri is aware of the unenviable task of having to deal with the expected Chinese onslaught.
It is a heavy responsibility playing against such strong opponents, said Syamsuri in a telephone interview from Wuhan yesterday.
He said that they had been drawn in the toughest group in the Asian qualifiers and have the tasks to keep the results respectable in all the matches.
We had a tough time against Iran but we were playing without three defenders who were down with injuries. With the return of trio, we will do better in defence, said Syamsuri.
He was referring to the return of centrebacks Norhafiz Zamani Misbah and Marzuki Yusof and leftback Yosri Dermaraju.
In the pre-Olympics, Malaysia received a first round bye and walked into the Finals thanks to the withdrawal of Turkmenistan in the second round.
China advanced to the Finals edging Syria 4-3 on aggregate in the second round. The squad have seasoned players with considerable experience playing at the senior level. They include goalkeeper An Qi and Du Wei, who were members of the Chinese team who made their debut in the World Cup Finals in 2002.
Malaysia's last encounter against China five years ago ended in a nightmare. The team under the charge of Abdul Rahman Ibrahim were handed a 1-7 rout in the invitational Dunhill Cup tournament in Vietnam in 1999.