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UAE vs Malaysia: Daunting task awaiting Malayan Tigers

Dollah Salleh’s men will be taking on a daunting task on Thursday, when they face UAE in their third World Cup Qualifiers tie. Malaysia are currently last in the group, having only secured one point from their first two games, and their inability to win a single game in 2015, means they head into the clash against UAE as major underdogs.

UAE are no ordinary opponent. This is the team that finished third at the Asian Cup earlier this year, knocking Japan out along the way.  They are currently ranked 69th in the world and they also boast talented players like Omar Abdulrahman, Ali Mabkhout and Ahmed Khalil.

Photo Credits: thenational.ae
Photo Credits: thenational.ae

But Dollah is determined to prove a point. He was summoned by FAM after their heavy defeat to Palestine in June, where he promised to ring the changes for their next game. True enough, several new faces have been drafted into the squad.

Regular faces such as Mahali Jasuli, Muslim Ahmad and Fadhli Shas were all replaced by Yong Kuong Yong, Afif Amiruddin and Amiridzwan Taj. While in attack, the likes of Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, Safee Sali and Afiq Azmi were replaced by Nor Farhan and Faiz Subri.
There were also slight changes in midfield, with Wan Zack Haikal, Nurridzuan Abu Hassan and Baddrol Bakhtiar being called up in place of Nazrin Nawi, R. Gopinathan and Indra Putra Mahayuddin. Not to mention the addition of Harimau Muda players, Syahrul Azwari, Nazirul Naim, and S. Kumaahran.
10995531_1067820416580479_3487475825137512763_nAnother boost was the late addition of Pahang players with Khairul Azhan, Razman Roslan, Matthew Davies and Azamuddin Akil, who were unable to join the squad before the Bangladesh match as they were involved in Pahang’s AFC Cup clash against FC Istiklol in Tajikistan.
Dollah’s tactics against Bangladesh suggests that he is keen on employing a 5-4-1 formation, a strategy that’s reasonable, judging by UAE’s quality all over the pitch.
He paired Afif, Junior Eldstal and Amiridzwan Taj in the central defence. They are still shaky and nervous but with time they might prove to be a solid foundation. If they can perform well, then we might stand a chance against the Middle Eastern side.
While the back five and Junior Eldstal looked pretty solid, Safiq Rahim was very uncomfortable playing as a central midfielder as he was unable to provide killer passes and defend the ball well thus limiting his role in the attack. It could be a good idea for Dollah to install Safiq back to the attacking midfield position as the team is in need of his quality to break through the opponent’s defence.
Photo Credit: jurnalmalaysia.com
Photo Credit: jurnalmalaysia.com

Nasir Basharuddin would be a good choice for the central midfield position as he can help both in defence and attack as well. While Amri Yahyah, Joseph Kalang Tie and Wan Zack Haikal are doing a decent job in attack, Dollah might have to reconsider Norfarhan’s position as the main striker as he was largely ineffective in the attacking role – struggling to break through the defence and often moving deep into the midfield area, making it harder for the team to initiate attacks without his presence in the penalty box.

Matches of this scale isn’t just about physical strength; the players have to play with a strong mentality and they need to stay focused on the end-goal. We’ve seen too many occasions where the national team collapses immediately after conceding one goal.
Malaysia have got no options here, but to improve their recent form, and bounce back from their slump. Beyond that, Dollah’s fate also rests on these two games. Obviously, expectations need to be reasonable. But it’s pretty reasonable to expect Malaysia to at least show determination on the pitch, come Thursday.

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