BY OOI KIN FAI Follow on Twitter
It's confirmed, the "retired 4" are back. In a statement released through Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) official social media, it has been confirmed that Safiq Rahim, Amirulhadi Zainal, S. Kunanlan and Aidil Zaquan will be back on national duties once again.
"Safiq Rahim, Aidil Zafuan, Amirulhadi Zainal and S. Kunanlan, who all will be returning to don the national jersey, are national assets. They provided invaluable contributions and services to the country before deciding to retire from international football."
"With my knowledge on playing tactics of some of the local players, there will be a new playing style for the national team," said Mario Gomez in the released statement.
Of the four returning players for selection, only two are currently the first choice of club side Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) under the management of Benjamin Mora. The duo of Safiq and Kunanlan has managed to retain their respective places despite the change in head coach but the same cannot be said for the other two.
While Amirulhadi started the season strongly with an incredible performance in helping JDT get past Bangkok United in the preliminary qualifying round of the Asian Champions League, his form has dipped since and has been usurped by youngster, Afiq Fazail in the Southern Tigers starting line-up.
Aidil also went through the same but in his case, it was an injury suffered early in the season which has meant bench time for him after returning back to full fitness. Fadhli Shas was first preferred to partner Marcos Antonio but of late, Junior Eldstal has been the choice for Mora at the heart of the defence.
While Safiq could well walk back into the team with how mediocre the national team's midfield has been performing, Aidil is expected to have a tough time trying to break the partnership of Shahrom Kalam and Ronny Harun who seemed to have struck up a good understanding. Kunanlan also will find it a challenge to dislodge the dependable Rizal Ghazali at right back.
Along with these four players, the aforementioned Eldstal could also be afforded a call-up soon together with the likes Izham Tarmizi, Farizal Marlias, Azrif Nasrulhaq and Fazly Mazlan. Gomez will have to get to know his players in the intertwining months before the all-important Asian Cup qualifier against North Korea on the 8th June.
While Malaysia's match against North Korea that was supposedly played on Tuesday was postponed, Lebanon beat Hong Kong in the only match played from Group B. The 2-0 win with goals from Kelantan's Mohamed Ghaddar and Hassan Maatouk made Lebanon the early leaders in the group before the next round of fixtures come around.