Malaysia call up Natxo Insa and Corbin Ong for international fixtures against Mongolia and Lebanon.
Naturalised duo Natxo Insa and Corbin Ong are among the new faces selected by Malaysia head coach Tan Cheng Hoe for two upcoming matches against Mongolia (March 22) and Lebanon (March 27).
Tan — elected Malaysia’s chief tactician in December after the abysmal reign of Portuguese Nelo Vingada — has named 15 new faces in a bid to resurrect the deplorable state of the national team that failed to win a single game in 2017.
The Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) duo of Natxo and Corbin headline the likely debutants, and they are expected to improve Malaysia in two departments which have been a big letdown.
The Spanish-born Natxo is a smooth operator in midfield, where he can assume a playmaker role or in a deeper position, just behind his club teammate Safiq Rahim or Nor Azam Abdul Azih.
The selection of Corbin at left-back also couldn’t come at a better time, with the robust afro-haired defender expected to provide security and penetration to fill the slot which has been Malaysia’s weak link in recent times.
Corbin already has one international cap for Canada in a friendly against Scotland, but is eligible for Malaysia as FIFA rules deem that friendly matches do not commit a player to one country.
Tan has also called up nine players from the Under-23 squad that defied all odds to make the quarterfinals of the AFC U-23 Championship in January under Ong Kim Swee.
Haziq Nazli, Akhyar Rashid, Syazwan Andik, Irfan Zakaria, Matthew Davies, Nor Azam, Safawi Rasid, Irfan Zakaria and Adam Nor Azlin are among the players who are riding high on confidence at international level and could prove to be a breath of fresh air.
Natxo’s younger brother Kiko Insa, who became the first Malaysian to play in the Thai League 1 with Bangkok Glass, is also included.
The ex-Pahang man now features in central defence at Bangkok Glass, and could be deployed in the same position by Tan where his physical and aerial prowess will be key for the Malaysians.
The new additions opens up a new chapter of promise for Malaysian football, with Tan at the helm.
After twice serving as assistant to K. Rajagobal and Vingada, the former Kedah coach finally got his big break in December when the Football Association of Malaysia decided to give him the hot seat in favour of a foreigner.
The soft-spoken Tan also has the perfect opportunity to test this bunch in international matches of little significance.
The friendly against 189th ranked Mongolia is followed by the 2019 Asian Cup qualifier against Lebanon, where Malaysia are already out having not won a game.
Malaysia squad against Mongolia and Lebanon
Khairul Fahmi Che Mat (Kelantan), Hafizul Hakim (Perak), Haziq Nadzli (JDT), Safiq Rahim (JDT), Ahmad Hazwan Bakri (JDT), Darren Lok (JDT), Nazmi Faiz (JDT), Safawi Rasid (JDT),Fadhli Shas (JDT), Fazly Mazlan (JDT), S. Kunanlan (JDT), Afiq Fazail (JDT), Syafiq Ahmad (JDT), Adam Nor Azlin (JDT), Natxo Insa (JDT), La’vere Corbin-Ong (JDT), Akhyar Rashid (Kedah), Akram Mahinan (Kedah), Ariff Farhan (Kedah), Syazwan Andik (Kuala Lumpur), Irfan Zakaria (Kuala Lumpur), Nor Azam Abdul Azih (Pahang), Matthew Davies (Pahang), Shahrul Saad (Perak), Kiko Insa (Bangkok Glass), Wan Zack Haikal (Felda United), Mahalli Jasuli (PKNS FC), Rawilson Batuil (Sabah), Syahmi Safari (Selangor)