Cheng Hoe searching the right combination against Tajikistan

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With two vital “must-win home matches” to stay alive in Group G in the World Cup 2022/Asia Cup 2023 national football head coach Tan Cheng Hoe is using Saturday’s Tier 1 international friendly at the National Stadium against Tajikistan before naming his team.

Harimau Malaya faces Thailand on Nov 14 followed by Indonesia on Nov 19 – both at the National Stadium.

Malaysia scored a memorable come-from-behind 3-2 win in their opening match at the Stadium Gelora Bung Karno in Jakarta. However, Malaysia could not repeat the success against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and fell to a 1-2 defeat at home despite taking an early lead.

The Harimau Malaya crashed to a 1-0 defeat to Vietnam at the My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi in their third match in the group.

Thailand leads the group with seven points on goal difference, ahead of Vietnam. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is third on six points followed by Malaysia on three points with winless Indonesia propping the table without a point after four defeats.

Cheng Hoe has beefed up his squad by bringing in Kedah skipper Baddrol Bakhtiar and Johor Darul Takzim’s Afiq Fazail to fire up the engine room.

Both Baddrol and Afiq are likely to feature in Cheng Hoe’s first team as the duo read the game well and have the “vision” to drive the team on even when the chips are down.

For the record, Tajikistan is ranked 116 against Malaysia’s 158 and Cheng Hoe wants his players to learn the tactical, technical and intensity aspects of the match before taking on the Thais and the Indonesians.

“It is not easy to get a Tier 1 international friendly against a higher-ranked team like Tajikistan. I want the players to use this match to improve and equip themselves to take on Thailand and Indonesia.

Ït is a learning mission for us against Tajikistan. Take this opportunity to fight for your place in my team. The team will be picked on merit. As the coach, I am looking for the best combinations that will suit my match plans and strategies,” said Cheng Hoe.

“The Tajikistan match will give me the inkling of my first team.”

Malaysia also played a friendly match against the Maldives on Tuesday at the Tuanku Abdul Rahman Stadium in Paroi, Seremban and registered a 2-1 win. The match was played behind closed doors. RIZAL ABDULLAH 

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