Preview: Time for Malaysia to have new heroes

Adulation, respect and admired; the AFF Suzuki Cup winning squad of 2010 received all of that when they lifted the coveted trophy eight years ago. They were received and looked upon as heroes of Malaysian football for bringing home the trophy for the first time and now it's the time for a new generation of players to reach to aim to hit the same heights.

In Khairul Fahmi Che Mat and Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, there are still some remnants from the 2010 team. The former is likely to take his place on the bench in the second leg but the latter has been one of the major reasons why Malaysia are still within a shout of lifting the trophy this year.

Mat Yo as he is so often referred to will have to show his experience and be one of the on-field leaders of this Malaysian side as they seek to end a 3-year unbeaten home run in competitive matches for Vietnam.

The last two times that Vietnam lost playing at home was in the 2018 World Cup qualifier against Thailand back in October of 2015. And the time before that was Malaysia's fantastic 2-4 triumph over The Golden Dragons in the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final.

Duc Huy Vietnam Malaysia AFF Cup 2018

Vietnam has already had the upper hand over Malaysia in the tournament this year having defeated Harimau Malaya 2-0 in a Group A clash and grabbed vital away goals in a 2-2 draw at Bukit Jalil National Stadium in the first leg on Tuesday.

In both matches Vietnam's head coach Park Hang-seo has been able to correctly put in place tactics that worked tremendously well against Malaysia. It wouldn't be unfair to say that in those two matches, Malaysia's head coach Tan Cheng Hoe has lost the battle with his direct counterpart.

Tactically in both of those matches, Park surprised Cheng Hoe with his team selection as well as playing style. It showed the variety of options available to the 59-year-old Korean who can switch his team from a defensive style to an attacking style without any detrimental impact on what they want to achieve in the game.

Expected to be backed by a buoyant 40,000 odd home crowd at My Dinh Stadium today and only needing to hold onto their lead via the away goals to clinch the trophy, Park is likely to revert to less adventurous approach and it is up to Cheng Hoe to spring a surprise on the home side.

Dinh Trong Vietnam Malaysia AFF Cup 2018

It is hard to see Malaysia making wholesale changes just to catch Vietnam off-guard with Cheng Hoe likely to go with his tried and tested preferred starting eleven, especially when those who have been given a chance throughout the competition have not shone enough to force their way in.

Shahrel Fikri, Akhyar Rashid, Kenny Pallraj, Syazwan Zainon, Syafiq Ahmad, Irfan Zakaria, Amirul Azhan and Hazwan Bakri have all struggled in their own way when selected to play whether from the start or from the bench.

Which is why it looks increasingly likely that Cheng Hoe will revert back to the team that did so well against Thailand in the away leg at Rajamangala Stadium. The return of the trio of Aidil Zafuan, Syazwan Andik and Syahmi Safari means that Malaysia will have their first choice defence back again for one last minimum of 90 minutes.

In the 180 minutes played against Vietnam thus far, Malaysia have struggled to produce many goal-scoring opportunities against what is a tough and physically strong Vietnam defence. Set pieces has been the only success story Malaysia have had over their opponents and that may yet come to the fore once again in this second leg.

Zaquan Adha, Mohamadou Sumareh, Safawi Rasid and Norshahrul were all bullied by the Vietnam defence in both those matches and they will have to all stand up to be counted if Malaysia are to achieve glory.

Now the question really is, can Malaysia do it on a wet cold windy night in Hanoi? Time to be heroes.


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