Head coach Tang Cheng Hoe announced the Malaysia national team’s preliminary squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers first round match against Timor-Leste recently.
And one name that missed out from the 26-strong list was that of Johor Darul Ta’zim’s (JDT) impressive midfielder Afiq Fazail who has been in brilliant form for the Southern Tigers this season.
24-year-old Afiq has been a key player for JDT in the Malaysia Super League as well as the AFC Champions League 2019 where he put in a shift as the Malaysian champions defeated 2018 winners Kashima Antlers 1-0 earlier this month.
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And despite testaments from JDT coaches Benjamin Mora and Luciano Figueroa hailing him as one of the best midfielders in Malaysia at the moment, Cheng Hoe did not have a place for him in the 26-member squad, let alone the final squad for the two-legged tie against their Southeast Asian rivals.
And the 51-year-old has explained why he decided to overlook the Johor youngster.
“Of course we looked at him but at the moment we have other players in his position,” Cheng Hoe was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times. “But the door is always open for him and any other players in the future to be part of the national team,” he added.
“From the list of players, even though not at 100 per cent, it feels like the best squad I’ve managed to get. So in terms of the 26 names called up, I’m very happy with what we got,” the coach, who led Malaysia to the final of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018, said.
Malaysia are schedule to play Nepal in a friendly match on June 2 followed by the two-legged World Cup Qualifier on June 7 and 11. All three matches will be played at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.