Preview: Same group final but different outcome needed for Malaysia

Two years ago, Malaysia did not quite do the job required and bowed out in the group stage of the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup but 24 months later, the same opponent stands between the Harimau Malaya and a spot in the knockout stage of the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup.

Just like the last edition, Myanmar are the ones with the momentum going into this final encounter of the group stage, having played three and has thus far remained unbeaten in the process. Meanwhile Malaysia are still trying to pick the pieces from the painful defeat away to Vietnam that put them in a difficult position.

From first to third in the group, it was quite a big drop for Malaysia after playing their third match in the competition and now have little choice but to go for the win as any other result would see them eliminated from the competition.

With Vietnam expected to beat Laos in the other match in Group A, it will be straight out battle between Malaysia and Myanmar to decide who joins Vietnam in the next stage. Myanmar with seven points thus far, could even play for a draw at Bukit Jalil National Stadium and still advance to the next stage.

Tan Cheng Hoe will be hoping that the one week break has enabled his players to regroup and refresh for this vital clash this Saturday. For the first time since the competition started this year, Malaysia were not involved in a match day for eight days straight.

The tactics used by Vietnam in Hanoi exposed the lack of quality within Malaysia ranks in the final attacking third of the pitch. The creativity within the team or lack of, meant that Vietnam were able to sit deep and frustrate Malaysia easily. A ploy that almost worked for Laos too in the game preceding that.

Malaysia, Vietnam, 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup

Cheng Hoe will have to find someone in his team to assume the role of a playmaker, whether that is someone from the midfield department or one of the forwards. Norshahrul Idlan Talaha has been called upon to fill that void in the first two matches but as the leading scorer for the team in the competition thus far, his exploits is more needed further upfield.

There isn't much option from within the squad that Cheng Hoe could look for which would suggest a more dependence on the attributes of Malaysia's wing play. With another week of recovery under his belt, Mohamadou Sumareh could be far more effective than he did against Vietnam.

Over on the other side the form of Syazwan Zainon, Akhyar Rashid and Safawi Rasid means that it's a toss up between the three to fill the position on the other flank. While at the back, the errors made by Khairul Fahmi could force Cheng Hoe to opt for Farizal Marlias to face Myanmar.

"Tomorrow's match will be another important match for us. We have to go for three points. With the great atmosphere and my players in great spirit, hopefully we'll get a great result"

"It's not going to be easy against Myanmar. They have done well in the last three matches and are top of the group. I want the players to go into the field with the mindset of keeping focus in every moment of the game because in crucial moments thus far, the players have made mistakes.

"I'm sure playing at home will always be a good motivation for the players. We have to keep believing in the way we want to play but we also have to be wary of Myanmar's pace on the break at the same time," said Cheng Hoe in the pre-match press conference.

Malaysia Myanmar PC, AFF Suzuki Cup

As for Antoine Hey and his Myanmar side, they did well to hold Vietnam in their last match despite making five changes from the starting line-up to keep players fresh to face Malaysia. Centre back Pyae Phyo Zaw and midfielder Lwin Moe Aung are two players who are expected to return to the starting line-up in Kuala Lumpur.

Midfielder Hlaing Bo Bo has already scored twice in the competition this year and he is the midfield general of this Myanmar side. The biggest threat from Hey's side would undoubtedly be striker Aung Thu.

Two years ago he completely terrorised Malaysia's defence with his quick control and turn of pace, a player similar in size and style to Manchester City's Sergio Aguero. The silver lining for Malaysia would be that Aung Thu has only recently recovered from injury and thus may not be hitting his purple patch quite yet.

So it comes down to the last 90 minutes to decide if Cheng Hoe's Malaysia will continue their journey in the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup or will the journey come to an abrupt end on home soil. Whatever it is, it promises to be a tense one and a half hour football for both side of the fence.


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