Key Battles: Malaysia U23 vs Myanmar U23

The two Southeast Asian junior rivals meet again, this time in the Merdeka Tournament and Goal brings you the key battles that will most likely take place this Saturday

The final match of the 2013 Merdeka Tournament is upon us, and hosts Malaysia U23 are through after producing a 100 per cent winning record in the group stage. They will be facing their regional U23 rivals, Myanmar U23 who are through after beating misfiring Singapore U23 2-0 on Wednesday. They had earlier met in the second match of the group stage in what was a hard fought match which went the Young Tigers' way 2-1. The match showcased the hosts' tenacity, desire to win, and overall squad depth, whereas Myanmar proved their penchance for fast counters and ability to score from just a few opportunities. But that was in the past, and surely the two teams have learnt about their opponents and adapted accordingly. Here is Goal's pick on where the key battles are going to take place on the pitch this Saturday.


Kyi Lin will be looking to perform better in the final, as he was shut out well by the Malaysian defence on Monday, and crumbled under pressure, resulting in a red card. He will be back this Saturday, and his team will rely on him to get past the Malaysian back four and find the back of the net.

However, Fadhli will be there to stamp out his threat. The experienced centre-back has led Malaysia's defence admirably, which means that the Young Tigers have only conceded one goal from three matches in the tournament so far. But they must be wary of the speed at which Myanmar lauch their attacks, as the Malaysian defence are at times too sluggish when retreating back, which then puts them in a disarray.


Also back in the first team is Myanmar's captain Zayar Win, who had to be taken off during their match against Malaysia due to an injury and was required to sit out during their 2-0 win against Singapore. It could be argued that Myanmar could not perform well on Monday because of his absence, and his return to the heart of the midfield will definitely inspire his teammates, and spark Myanmar's attacks.

His Malaysian counterpart Irfan Fazail also occupies the same role and responsibilities, although Malaysia's audacity and confidence when attacking mean that he has been able to do it from further up the field. He has also been greatly aided by the addition of Sarawak's Junior Eldstal, and the two have combined very well to bolster the hosts' attacks to take it to another level of lethality.

FC Ryukyu's Wan Zack took a leave of absence from his Japanese club with one intention; to help the Young Tigers capture the Merdeka Tournament championship. He showcased this eagerness in their first match against Singapore and perhaps in his over-eagerness he misfired in the match. However he put the fans' restlessness to rest against Myanmar with two wonderful freekicks, to prove that he is taking full advantage of his current stint in Japan. However, he may have to dig deeper within himself on Saturday to overcome Myanmar, as they certainly have caught on to a few of his fancy footwork, to make sure that they won't be twice bitten.

Zaw Min Tun has done well so far to lead his team's defence in the tournament, and in their earlier match against the hosts, he shadowed striker Thamil Arasu very closely to shut him out of the match completely. A little too closely however, as his single-mindedness opened space for the Malaysian midfield, who have been very involved in the attacks. This Saturday, he needs to lead and coordinate his defence line better, and delegate their defensive resources well, as Myanmar's well-drilled defenders have greatly contributed to Myanmar counter-attacks. Too much attention on defending and they won't threaten the hosts, but over-commitment to help during attacks means that they're leaving holes through which they can be easily penetrated.

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