When Malaysia started the qualifying campaign away to Indonesia in Jakarta, not many would put Harimau Malaya as the favourites to win that match even though they eventually won that 3-2. In the subsequent matches against United Arab Emirates, Vietnam and Thailand; Tan Cheng Hoe's team were also considered the underdogs.
But after beating Thailand 2-1 on Thursday and going up against an Indonesian side that has lost four straight matches in the group, the situation has completely swung around with Malaysia now the red-hot favourites to win Tuesday's clash at Bukit Jalil National Stadium.
Without the in-form Syafiq Ahmad and sweating on the fitness concern of right back Syahmi Safari, Cheng Hoe will be stressing to his charges that they cannot afford to let their guards down against a wounded Indonesia side. With a full house expected tomorrow, Cheng Hoe realises the pressure is now on his team and he will be looking to channel that in a positive way.
"This will be our last match for 2019 and we want to get a positive result. Even though we beat them previously, it will be a different ball game. They have a new set of players with new coach. They’ve been here a week, so it shows they are serious.
Syafiq produced a good performance against Thailand even though he didn’t score. He was ver effective and we will miss his presence in the team. And Davies also played very well in recent games. We’ll have to find the replacment for them. We have one more day to look at Syahmi and it looks positive but if he can’t make it, we have players who are capable of coming in," said Cheng Hoe on Monday.
As for Indonesia, their recent results has meant the end for Simon McMenemy. The Scot is still with the team taking charge of training but will leave his pitch side authority in the hands of Yeyen Tumena tomorrow. It is a different squad that will play Malaysia
But like a wounded animal, The Garudas under new leadership and new make-up of the team could be dangerous to Malaysia because they would want to prove their worth. Add to the fact that Indonesia are all but mathematically out of qualifying to the next round, they will have nothing to lose and will play without any unnecessary pressure on them.
"There’s a lot of changes in the squad. We are also preparing the team for SEA Games. We played a friendly in Indonesia against Iran, so there are a couple of players missing. We came early and have watched Malaysia against Thailand.
"To not get a point means that we have things to work on. On the pitch, we either win or lose. Of course there are pressure but we have to face it all the same. We know this is a dificult game and Malaysia are in a very confident mood but we’ll give the best we can," said Yeyen.
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