Malaysia head coach Tan Cheng Hoe has spoken about Harimau Malaya’s upcomings opponents ahead of next month’s 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.
Malaysia are in the ASEAN-heavy Group G of the 2022 World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup Joint-Qualifiers second round along with Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The Malaysian Tigers will open their campaign against Indonesia at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta on September 5 before hosting UAE five days later at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.
29′ GOAL! Malaysia equalize! 1-1!
What. A. Goal. Syahmi Safari runs at the opposition defence before hitting an absolute belter from way out. Malaysia with the all-important away goal and what a goal it was! #THAvMAS #AFFSuzukiCup18 #WearYourPride pic.twitter.com/tfsATQL7et
— FOX Sports LIVE! (@FSAsiaLive) December 5, 2018
And Cheng Hoe admitted that Timnas Indonesia, who have six naturalised players among their probables, will be a tough nut to crack.
“Every team in the qualifiers are hoping to play in the 2022 World Cup, so, understandably, they have called up their best players. Indonesia look strong but I do not want to think about them. The focus is on preparing my players for this opening match,” he was quoted by the New Straits Times.
“We, however, need to be wary as we are playing away. Indonesia are always tough to play against in Jakarta,” Cheng Hoe said. Simon McMenemy has called up six naturalised stars — Otavio Dutra, Victor Igbonefo, Stefano Lilipaly, Greg Nwokolo, Alberto Goncalves and Osas Saha — in his 24-man squad for the qualifiers.
Malaysia’s second opponent United Arab Emirates will throw up an even tougher challenge for the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 finalists. The two teams were drawn together in the second round of the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers as well.
Omar Abdulrahman – AFC Player of the Year 2016
And it did not go down well for Malaysia when they travelled to UAE to face the Emiratis. The result was a 10-0 thrashing that led to the resignation of then Malaysia head coach Dollah Salleh.
“UAE are the group favourites and we will have to treat them cautiously in Bukit Jalil. Our players need to be brave and vocal in this match. Omar Abdulrahman is a fantastic player. Although he is known as the Maradona of the Middle East, he actually plays like Lionel Messi,” Cheng Hoe said.
“We will definitely have to mark him. I have already reminded my players not to give him space to operate. The key to this game is to play possession football. We also need to avoid making individual mistakes not only against the UAE but also other teams,” he added.
Thailand have striker shortage ahead of World Cup Qualifiers
The 51-year-old Malaysian also had a few words for the Thai Messi — Chanathip Songkrasin who Malaysia will meet in November after facing Vietnam on October 10.
“Chanathip is a good dribbler and passes the ball well. He is doing really well in Japan and he will be inspired to help Thailand reach far in the qualifiers. We defeated Thailand in last year’s AFF Cup on away goals in the semifinals, so I believe they will be out for revenge,” Cheng Hoe said.