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Malaysia v Mongolia

How Malaysia could line up against Mongolia

1:35 PM MYT 22/03/2018
Who Tan Cheng Hoe could select as his first starting eleven in his first match as head coach of Malaysia national team?

This will be the first of many things for the Malaysia senior national football team. The first match in 2018, the first under new head coach Tan Cheng Hoe as well as the first time back playing at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium since 2015.

In a sweeping change, 15 new players have been called up for the first time to the national team. This includes the likes of Ignacio 'Natxo' Insa, La'Vere Corbin-Ong and a whole host of players from the Under-23 squad that did well in AFC U23 Championship back in January.

For the first game, it would be very hard to expect Tan to be overly expansive and completely change the team to the one that were part of the squad that lost twice to DPR Korea at the back end of last year. What is more likely to happen is a marriage of the two, between those who have the international football experience and those that will give a fresh meaning to the team. 

For those that are likely to remain from Eduardo Vingada's squad could possibly Perak's Hafizul Hakim in goal, Johor Darul Ta'zim's Fadhli Shas at centre back as well as JDT's Safiq Rahim. Afiq Fazail was also afforded a chance against Korea and is expected to start on Thursday.

Turning 32 this year, Natxo is no spring chicken but in terms of his international footballing career, he is. Yet, the understanding that has been built up at club level alongside Safiq and Afiq could them the trio slot seamlessly on the national front.

Perak's Shahrul Saad have done well since the start of the 2018 season. Nailing down a permanent spot at centre back without switching back and forth between midfield and defence, seemed to have done wonders for him but it could be another JDT partnership at central defence with youngster Adam Nor Azlin looking like the preferred partner to Fadhli.

For his goalscoring prowess this season, Safawi Rasid is a shoe-in for one of the three forward positions with Hazwan Bakri also geared to start, although the latter option seemed to be more because of the lack of viable options.

For what it's worth, it does look like a starting line-up that matches what Tan wants from the players. A team that has the capability to hold, move and recycle the ball in an efficient manner that calls for balls to very much stay on the ground.

All of which points to a very interesting watch how Malaysia will fare in the Mongolian test.