Hot on the heels of the 1-0 home win over Yemen last weekend, Malaysia’s first ever win against a higher FIFA ranked country since beating Myanmar in 2008, the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) announced a last minute friendly match against Japanese side Albirex Niigata. The Japanese outfit are to replace the earlier cancelled fixture against Togo.
FAM’s efforts to arrange a friendly against another higher ranked country proved futile, when Vietnam, their final hope to replace Togo, indicated they were not able to accommodate Malaysia’s request because of their recently kicked off domestic season.
That decision served as a major blow to coach K. Rajagobal’s hopes of playing against top notch opposition as he prepares his young national side, comprising mostly of player below 23 years of age except skipper Amri Yahya, for two major assignments later in November and December this year; the Asian Games (Under-23) in Guangzhou, China and the Asean Football Federation’s Suzuki Cup (formerly known as the Tiger Cup).
While the general public may not be happy that the national team are up against a club side who currently occupy the basement spot in the S-League standings after picking up only 1 point from their three matches played, Rajagobal, though disappointed with the quality of opposition, still cautioned his players against overconfidence.
"I need to see continuous progress from these players. They must not rest on their laurels. There were positive signs from the game against Yemen but I need to see them in more matches before they can justify their places in the national team,” Rajagobal said from Singapore yesterday while speaking to a local daily.
The coach is set to deploy the new faces in the squad once again, as he did in the Yemen match, when he gave debuts to Yong Kuong Yong, Muhaimin Omar, Alif Samsudin, S.Chanturu and Faizal Abu Bakar.
In another development, FAM also announced a friendly match against Thailand, scheduled for later March 27, 2010 in Bangkok.
It serves as a coup of sorts for FAM as Thailand have more often than not, in recent times, declined playing against the Malaysian Tigers due to the latter’s slide in the international arena. The agreement of the football administrators in the Kingdom towards playing their neighbours, shows some sort of respect Malaysian football has earned since Rajagobal took helm of the national set-up.
The Thais, arguably South East Asia’s No.1 side together with Singapore, are still smarting from their defeat to Malaysia in the Laos SEA Games (Under-23) semi-finals last December, and will definitely be gunning for revenge.