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Zaquan leading the line on and off the pitch

3:39 PM IST 06/09/18
Zaquan Adha, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The Malaysian captain is taking his duties and responsibilities seriously as the national team head into two winnable friendly matches.

Malaysia last played Chinese Taipei in a two-legged qualifier for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Malaysia won the first leg 2-1 at Bukit Jalil National Stadium before a 3-2 defeat in the second leg at Taipei Municipal Stadium. The away goals was enough to take Malaysia to the next stage of qualification but Singapore proved to be one hurdle to far in the next encounter.

Seven year later, Malaysia will once again play Chinese Taipei but this time in a match with less riding on it than pride and form. The same venue in Taipei will be the host of an international friendly between the two teams on Friday.

Compared to the team that played in the match in 2011, only one player from the starting line-up on that day in Mahali Jasuli and one player on the bench in Khairul Fahmi are still part of the squad that traveled this time around.

But the similarity does not quite end there. Back in 2011, Malaysia fielded Aidil Zafuan Abdul Razak in defence and the centre back even struck of the goals in the defeat. This time, his twin brother Zaquan Adha Abdul Razak will be the one hoping to find the back of the net.

Zaquan not only have a place in the squad but is the team captain as one well one of Tan Cheng Hoe's first choice to lead the attack. Just like his whole-hearted displays on the pitch, it is a persona that the 31-year-old carries off the pitch as well.

When the team assembled for training last Monday, Zaquan took the opportunity to speak to the entire squad before training started that showed plenty of courage and leadership qualities from a player who has been around the blocks.

"Actually it is nothing much. Just that for me, I want to motivate. Sometimes we are up, sometimes we are down," Zaquan told Goal. "That's why before training, I just wanted to motivate my team mates. And by speaking, it's not just me but others as well.

"By talking to each other, we can create a more harmonious team and help to boost each other's confidence. Maybe we see some players who are more quiet and low on confidence, so by speaking we can help each other. 

"When a junior player comes in, they tend to be more quiet. In the national team, players come from all over and it's a chance for everyone to get to know each other more."

As one of the elder statesman in the squad now, Zaquan knows that despite recent improvements with the national team, the players cannot start taking things for granted. The Chinese Taipei friendly is the first of two away fixtures with the next one against a Keisuke Honda led Cambodian side.

The Kuala Lumpur forward is looking forward to see what plans Tan has for the two matches, hoping that it will give the team a chance to gel, what with the inclusion of several new faces in the squad that wasn't with the group against Fiji previously.

"For these two friendlies, of course we want wins to improve our rankings. That is the important target every time we have a match. This time we also want to create new combinations with the players from the Asian Games who come into the team in good form," added Zaquan.