Datuk K. Rajagopal will be looking to at least earn something out of their difficult clash against Qatar, and silence his growing number of critics in Malaysia
Muftah- Al Ghanim - Majid - Bilal
Khalfan- Talal - Abdulaziz - Hatem
Soria - Majid
Jasuli - Zafuan - Fadhli- Muslim
Ashaari - Azamuddin - Nor - Yong
Fauzi - Hadi
The time has arrvied for Datuk K. Rajagopal to finally prove a point and silence his critics. Malaysia were ousted in the semi-final of the AFF Suzuki Cup last year and since then, pressure has been growing immensely on the shoulders of King Raja.
But the man himself remained optimistic, promising to revive the team in the Asian Cup qualifiers, which begins against Qatar on Wednesday night. We have to admit that there is a significance difference in class between both sides but Malaysia should go into this one with confidence.
Qatar themselves are in a dire state following their below-par performance in the recent Gulf Cup, in which they failed to make it past the group stages, despite being billed as favourites to win the tournament. There has also been a change on the management side, with Fahad Thani replacing Paulo Autuori as the head coach.
They will certainly be depending on forward Sebastian Soria, who will be a big threat with his height and experience. Their Southeast Asian counterparts are relatively small in stature, meaning that any physical advantage could prove to be pivotal on Wednesday.
As for the Malayan Tigers, they know that this will not be an easy tie. Malaysia have not beaten Qatar in their last five meetings and Middle Eastern sides have always caused problems for them. King Raja's men were given a footballing lesson by Iraq in a 'practice match' last Saturday, in which they went down 0-3.
Injuries hasn't helped their cause either, with Malaysia missing up to 10 key players. Notable names like Safee Sali, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, Gary Steven Robbat and S. Kunanalan will all be absent, but it could also be a blessing in diguise for the new faces.
Rajagopal has always been under criticism for his selection policy, with many claiming that he picks the national team based on reputation instead of form. Therefore, this is not only a perfect chance for the new names to shine but also a chance for Rajagopal to justify his coaching credentials by making an impression - despite not having the best team at his disposal.
Regardless, the time has arrived for him and Malaysia to prove to their fans that not all hope is lost. Similarly, Qatar's fans have been loud about their frustrations and its time for The Maroons' to regain the the love from their faithful.