The ill-fated double header against DPR Korea at the end of last year was not one to remember for Malaysian fans but for Safawi Rasid, it still represented a milestone in his career. A first senior international goal in the first match that was quickly followed by another in the second match.
With the national team training starting today ahead of the international friendly match against Mongolia on Thursday and the Asian Cup qualification match against Lebanon after that, Safawi is once again hot on the goal trail.
Last night saw him becoming the toast of Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) after he grabbed all three goals in the 2-3 win over UiTM FC to send his side into the quarterfinal stage of the 2018 FA Cup. More importantly it was also the 21-year-old's first ever hat-trick in his career.
"First, I'm thankful to the fans who came today and my team mates who helped me get the three goals. I'm satisfied with my hat-trick but it's not the end and I still need to work hard to improve further."
"Perhaps the third goal was my favourite out of the three. Because it was a volley straight from a cross. This is a great boost for me before joining up with the national team and hopefully, I can contribute to the country," said Safawi after the match.
The three goals take his tally for the season up to five goals now, with the other two goals also coming from cup competition, the AFC Cup.
There's a bit more maturity in Safawi's game these days but as it is with any young player, can still be plagued by inconsistency. A scenario perfectly highlighted in the second half of the UiTM match when he produced an oustanding flick pass to Safiq Rahim, only to then have a heavy touch on Safiq's return pass for the ball to go out of play.
Malaysia are in dire need of a win and if it comes against Mongolia, Safawi is sure to be playing his part in ensuring that happens.