Malaysia go into Asian Cup battle with Lebanon with a young squad but coach Tan Cheng Hoe is aiming for at least a point.
Bereft of their best players and having not won in 11 attempts has not stopped Malaysia from targeting a point when they face Lebanon in the 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers on Tuesday.
Tan Cheng Hoe’s beleaguered troops, still smarting from their 2-2 draw against minnows Mongolia last week, will close their Group B campaign against their in-form group champions.
But despite travelling to Beirut with a host of new faces, national captain Zaquan Adha says having nothing to lose may work in favour of the visitors.
“Most of our players are young, but we are here to be competitive and hopefully at least collect a point,” said Zaquan.
While Zaquan is optimistic, Malaysia face a tall order to get anything from their opponents who have won five of their last six matches in 2017.
Lebanon’s form is a stark contrast to Malaysia, who have only picked one point in Group B to languish rock bottom.
To compound their misery, the Harimau Malaya are also without 12 players from Johor Darul Ta’zim, the defending champions and current league leaders in the Malaysian league.
Tan, who released the players to pave the way for nine new faces, wants his men to come out fighting.
“Most of these players are new to the international stage, so this is our best chance to give them exposure at this level. Hopefully they will have the confidence for this match,” said Tan.
“Lebanon will be tough because they did not lose any game in the qualifiers. But we have a young squad with an average age of 23, and I want them to take this opportunity well.”
Zaquan, Shahrel Fikri, Jafri Firdaus Chew, R. Kogileswaran, Nor Hakim Hassan, Nazirul Naim, Syazwan Zaipol, Syawal Nordin and Shahril Saari are the new faces called up by Tan.
Lebanon’s main threat will come from their wingers Hassan Maatouk and Rabih Ataya, who have combined to score seven goals in the qualifiers.
Apart from Matthew Davies, Malaysia’s backline will be a changed one from the Mongolia draw.
Irfan Zakaria and Syawal Nordin could line up in central defence, with Nazirul expected to slot into the left-back position.
Given the uncertainty back home with the Football Association of Malaysia without a leader after Tunku Sultan Ismail resigned on Sunday, a point will surely be celebrated like a victory.
For Tan, a result against all odds would also go some way to proving a point in his short, yet troubled tenure.