Stanley Samuel: Preview for Malaysia vs Vietnam

There will be a fine sense of deja vu as Malaysia takes on Vietnam in the semi finals of the Suzuki Cup, just like it happened in the 2010 edition of the competition. Yes, Malaysia did go on to win in 2010 but it will be a whole different story this time around as Vietnam and Malaysia are under the guidance of new coaches.

I had the privilege of commentating on Vietnam in the 2014 Asian Games and I can tell you that they are a quality side, especially going forward, under the guidance of Toshiya Miura from Japan. He has certainly changed the attacking style of the Vietnam side, trying to instill the same approach within which Japan operates and plays their football. To to his credit, it has been working very well thus far. I was very impressed with how Vietnam outplayed Iran for 90 minutes in the opening match of the Asian Games, where they went on to win 4-1. They have carried that same form into this tournament, qualifying as table toppers in Group A and more importantly beating an impressive Phillippines side with ease in their final group match.


Vu Minh Tuan’s miss will be costly, as he has been the heartbeat of an impressive Vietnam midfiled but that being said, Toshiya Miura has depth. Captain Le Lan Tai, Pham Thanh Luong, Huy Hung, Van Quyet and their top marksman Le Cong Vinh will be their key to success. Quick intriguing passing and robust high pressing has worked wonders for them and to apply these styles, they have worked very hard on the pitch. To me, their commitment has been first class but question marks still looms over their defence department.

Malaysia on the other hand, head into this semifinal match on the back of a dramatic win against Singapore, which has been the most entertaining match thus far. A certain amount of negativity was surrounding the Malaysian side due to their recent poor results and off field antics, but kudos to the players for reacting in the best way possible, which is to win a football match.
Shah Alam stadium awaits the 1st leg tonight. Dollah Salleh has a huge task in getting the best out of his players for the home match of this two leg affair. It’s so crucial for Malaysia to get a positive result, knowing that the 2nd leg will be a daunting task. Amri Yahya is almost irreplaceable with his current form. He has been Malaysia best player by a mile. His individual brilliance, awareness, tenacity, work rate and goals has been absolutely crucial and Dollah will have to make do without him in this 1st leg. Kunanlan will most likely be the replacement but he has to improve on the attacking 3rd if he is to contribute.

Another great miss would definitely be captain Shukor Adan, who has played an instrumental role in terms of contributing experience and being vocal around the park but I personally believe Malaysia could make do without him. It could be a blessing in disguise considering the pace within the Vietnamese side and Fadhli Shas, who will replace Shukor, is much quicker, on and off the ball.

Dollah Salleh will most likely approach the match like he did against Myanmar, Thailand and Singapore which makes the 3 big names in Khairul Fahmi, Norshahrul Idlan and Safee Sali pivotal and they would have to play out of their skin to fill in the boots of Amri Yahya.

Gary Steven and Safiq Rahim will have to make sure the Vietnamese midfield is kept on their back foot and I believe they are both capable of getting the job done but the key would be Gary Steven being the first line of defence, protecting his back four.

I’m anticipating open attacking football from both sides, and it’s not a bad way to play considering that Malaysia have been the better side for 70 minutes in all 3 group matches. In fact, if football was 70 minutes, Malaysia would have walked away with 7 points from the group. Their apparent weakness was exposed by the Thais in the last 20 minutes and if Dollah manages to fix those gaps, I believe Malaysia could walk away with a slim lead to take into the second leg.


Catch Stanley Bernard Samuel in Fox Sports Asia’s exclusive coverage of the AFF Suzuki Cup clash between the Malaysia and Vietnam later tonight!


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