National football coach Tan Cheng Hoe had his hands full answering questions on Syahmi Safari getting a place in his first-team against Thailand in the Group G World Cup 2022/Asua Cup 2023 on Thursday.

He was also bombarded with questions on goalkeeper Khairul Azhan Khalid replacing first choice Farizal Marlias and midfielder Syamer Kutty Abba getting a rare start in the national team.

The 51-year-old Cheng Hoe said the team was “picked on merit” and one that was “hungry” for the must-win match against the Thais who went into the match as group leaders.

Cheng Hoe also revealed that the closed-door friendly against the Maldives at the Tuanku Abdul Rahman Stadium in Paroi before the Tier 1 international friendly against Tajikistan was “priceless” as it allowed him to try out some combinations.

“Syahmi was highly motivated in training after winning the Best Goal in the AFF Suzuki Cup (2018) and he upped his ante…determined to fight for his place in the first team. He (Syahmi) was showing his mettle in training at a time when (Matthew) Davies a bit down.

“He was an obvious choice. Football is a team game and we have to work out match strategies according to our requirements. The entire team deserves credit for a marvelous performance with their never say die attitude.

“As for Syamer, he showed his capabilities in training and he did not let the team down after overcoming early jitters. Once he got into the rhythm he did what was expected of him. He had a good game and did his job well,” said Cheng Hoe who will be forced to make changes to his team again when Malaysia takes on Indonesia in Bukit Jalil on Tuesday.

Davies and striker Syafiq Ahmad will sit out the match against Indonesia to serve suspension for two yellow card offenses.

“We have to remain focused on the coming matches. There are four more matches to go and we will go all out for positive results. The journey is not completed yet,” added Cheng Hoe. RIZAL ABDULLAH 

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