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Will a resurgent Norshahrul make 2017 his year domestically and internationally?

7:27 AM GMT 02/02/2017
Felda United's Norshahrul Idlan Talaha celebrates his goal against PKNS 21/1/2017
Having scored 2 goals in as many 2017 league matches, can Felda ace Mat Yo maintain his form & become Malaysia's key man in the Asian Cup qualifiers?

BY        ZULHILMI ZAINAL       Follow on Twitter

Malaysia forward Norshahrul Idlan Talaha never quite recaptured his form following his 2010 AFF Cup win with the national team, and his signing, and then departure, from the star-studded Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT).

What followed was a quite few years with ATM and then Terengganu, and save for a return to the national squad for the 2016 AFF Cup, Norshahrul or Mat Yo as he is known to fans in the country, barely made any headlines in those years.

Norshahrul (kneeling, first from left) with the Malaysia national team at the 2016 AFF Cup. Photo by AFF

When Terengganu were relegated to the Premier League at the end of the 2016 season, Norshahrul chose to leave them to finally join Felda United FC, a club that have publically expressed their interest in him since the 2016 June transfer window.

And although Felda, last year's Super League (MSL) runners up have signed two foreign forwards in Gastón Cellerino and Lucas Cano, it is Norshahrul who has stolen all the limelight so far. After two MSL rounds have been played, he has scored both of the Fighters' goals this season, the first in their 1-0 win over PKNS FC, and the more recent one in their 3-1 defeat to title holders and former team JDT, to take the current MSL joint-topscorer spot alongside three other players.

This season, Norshahrul has scored two goals for Felda in the first two matchdays alone, when in the one and a half year he was at Terengganu, he bagged only three competitive goals.

If Felda boss Azmi Mohamed is worried that his two foreign strikers have not found the back of the net yet, he must be somewhat relieved that he still has an option in the 30-year old.

And this Saturday when Felda host last season's second runners up and Malaysia Cup champions Kedah at the Tun Abdul Razak Stadium in the third MSL round, Norshahrul should again be in the starting line-up, to spearhead their attack against the in-form Red Eagles.

Mat Yo must prove that he can maintain his resurgence, and perform against formidable opponents this season. Career-wise, he should be nearing the peak of his development as a striker, and where better to do it than at Felda? After all, the Fighters will also participate in the 2017 AFC Cup, and an eye-catching performance at a higher-level competition may make him a permanent member of Malaysia head coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee's squad again this year.

Should he prove himself with Felda and earn further national call-ups, Norshahrul can then serve as an addition to Malaysia's currently-limited attacking options, in the third round of the 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers; against Hong Kong, Lebanon and North Korea.

But it all has to start this Saturday, when Felda and Norshahrul take on the formidable Kedah at home.


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