BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Malaysia right back Syahmi Safari is relishing the competition for the right back spot with Matthew Davies in the coming series of matches involving the Harimau Malaya.
The 24-year old Davies had been the regular right back for Malaysia for the past two years or so, but when he picked up a lengthy injury just before the 2018 AFF Championship, the then 20-year old Syahmi filled in for him throughout the tournament. The Selangor man became one of the standout players in the tournament, culminating in his brilliant long-range goal in their second leg semi-final clash against Thailand.
But they have not been called up at the same time by Malaysia boss Tan Cheng Hoe this year, until now. Syahmi featured for Malaysia U-22 in the AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers instead while the senior team was competing in the Airmarine Cup back in March, and while he was initially called up for Malaysia's play-off tie against Timor Leste in June, he had to be sidelined due to an injury. Davies started in all but one of Malaysia's five matches so far this year.
Ahead of Malaysia's friendly match against Jordan (August 30), and Group G World Cup/Asian Cup encounters against Indonesia (September 5) and UAE (September 10), both of them have been called up by Cheng Hoe, with no other standout right back listed on the 27-man preliminary roster.
When met by the press just before training on Tuesday, Syahmi remarked that he looks forward to vying for the starting spot with the Pahang captain.
"I'm excited about the healthy competition. Matt has been a mainstay of the national team and has more experience than I do. I'm fully fit again after the earlier injury, and I look forward to vying for the starting spot.
"The national team plays a more offensive game, and I will need to adapt to this in the coming few days. But in the end it's all up to the coach, and I will give my best," he explained.
Asked about the inclusion of several more naturalised foreign-born players on the Indonesia squad that Malaysia will face, Syahmi responded that Malaysia will need to neutralise them using their speed.
"We (Malaysia players) have gone up against foreign players before in the [domestic] league, so it won't be a problem.
"Furthermore, we have the advantage of speed on the team," he pointed out.
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