Philippines head coach Thomas Dooley and Malaysia's interim head coach Ong Kim Swee will both want positive results to maintain their teams respective momentum
BY MARK DAWSON
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Interim head coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee will look to continue his unbeaten start as Malaysia boss, and strengthen his argument to receive the job on a full-time basis in the friendly against the Philippines. He has already demonstrated that he is prepared to make bold decisions and take a tough stance by exiling striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha for this game. Arguing that Norshahrul does “not play in JDT’s first eleven that often” and that Terengganu striker Nor Farhan Muhammad “is much better than Mat Yo,” shows a braveness in Kim Swee that could impress the FAM.
Apart from that shock non-call up, Kim Swee has not made too many changes for his 23 man squad travelling to Cebu, instead preferring to focus on continuity. Shakir Shaari and Nazmi Faiz have not been called up, meaning Hafiz Kamal, who is having a tremendous campain with title contenders Pahang, is likely to again partner former captain Safiq Rahim in the centre of midfield. While Kelantan talisman Badri Radzi is also part of the squad, it would be no surprise to again see him start on the bench, especially after he admitted that he is a “little tired” after recently coming back from Hong Kong following AFC Cup commitments.
With the Suzuki Cup at the end of the year, Kim Swee may well introduce several relatively untested players from the bench over the course of 90 minutes, including Ronny Harun, Razman Roslan and Junior Eldstal.
For the Philippine Azkals, they are on the rise under American coach Thomas Dooley. With recent draws against Malaysia and Al Ahli FC, coupled with an impressive 3-0 victory over Nepal two weeks ago, morale has improved amongst the squad. They recently completed a training camp in Qatar where they took on both Nepal and Al Ahli FC, and it has led to praise from their coach who complimented his team on their “aggressive play” and ability to “dictate the game.”
Unsurprisingly Dooley has looked to use a number of different line-ups in his brief spell in charge, trying to figure out the best 11 available to him. This fixture will be another chance to test out players and formations ahead of the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup, which takes place in the Maldives in May.
With fixtures to come next month against Turkmenistan, Laos and Afghanistan, it would be no surprise to see an experimental Filipino team. Established players such as Marwin Angeles, Misagh Bahadoran, Mark Hartmann, Stephan Schröck, Andrew Liauw, Roland Müller, Jeffrey Christiaens, Rob Gier and Juan Luis Guirado are all expected to miss the clash against the Malayan Tigers, giving fringe players a chance to impress.
The match takes place at the Cebu City Sports Complex pitch, with both teams looking to improve upon the dour 0-0 draw when they last met in March.