‘The journey will only get tougher’ – Cheng Hoe

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National football coach Tan Cheng Hoe’s criticism of the pitch conditions at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil has fallen on “deaf ears” but he is not letting the setback stand in the way for Harimau Malaya to gun another big win in the return leg of the 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup first round qualifiers.

The Harimau Malaya take a healthy 7-1 lead from last week’s first-leg played at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil. The return leg will be played at the same venue tomorrow (Tuesday) and Cheng Hoe wants the same “intensity, commitment, and discipline” from his charges, no matter who is picked for the first team.

Striker Syafiq Ahmad is a non-starter after picking up an injury in the first-leg and Cheng Hoe has given broad hints that he will make one or two changes to the first team to give the reserves the “right exposure” and prepare them for coming matches.

“It does not matter who is in the first team. The important thing is that the players must be fully focused on winning. They must display the intensity, commitment, and discipline to win the game for the country,” said Cheng Hoe.

“The next round will be much, much tougher and we will be up against some of the giants of Asian football. The journey will only get tougher from now and we have to be prepared for the challenges.

“The players need to be exposed to a high-intensity match. At the same time, I have to be cautious as we cannot be overconfident and hope for another big score. Instead, we have to be wary of Timor Leste. In football, anything can happen.”

On another note, Cheng Hoe said Malaysia’s rankings will further improve if the Harimau Malaya can secure another win. Malaysia has so far beaten Nepal in an A international friendly before the thumping win over Timor Leste.

“A good ranking will stand in good stead when the draw for the second round qualifiers is made,” added Cheng Hoe.

Malaysia is currently ranked 168.

“We want to continue our journey in the qualifiers and this should be enough to motivate the players to go for another positive result.” RIZAL ABDULLAH 


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