There were many precipitating factors that led to Malaysia being humbled 2-0 against Chinese Taipei last Friday but the prevalent one being unable to cope with the conditions of the pitch.
Despite Chinese Taipei’s lofty FIFA rankings position compared to Malaysia, it would be remiss to ignore the fact that Tan Cheng Hoe’s men were the ones with the better technical qualities.
Yet it was either messages failed to get across to the players from the bench on how to adapt to the wet conditions or just simply that Tan decided that it would be better for the players to keep to their style in spite of it
Time is running short for Tan ahead of the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup. While there are still two months to go before the start of the competition, the national team do not have the luxury of time together throughout that period.
It’s precisely because of so that Tan need to use today’s friendly against Cambodia as one to test out new combinations and build on a pen alternative plan in case Plan A does not work.
The midfield that Tan has built has a very defined role for each of the three players fielded in that department. Akram Mahinan is the continuity player, the recycling of possession and one to get the engine moving.
Nik Akif Syahiran was used as the box-to-box play, one that supports Akram as well as the other central midfielder in Nazmi Faiz. The latter undoubtedly the playmaker in the team and one that operates closer in position to the striker.
The first of the trio that should be tested is Perak’s captain Nasir Basharudin, in place of Akram. Nasir may not possess the passing quality of Akram but the former’s tenacity and energy should not be an underestimated strength.
Alongside Nasir, Sabah’s Azzizan Nordin should also get his first taste of international football. Nik Akif is a prodigious talent who has a very good footballing brain but as well, a known quantity. Azzizan may yet translate the good club form onto the bigger stage.
Up front is another position that Tan could look to test. Zaquan Adha is the captain and inspiration for the team who leads by example. The work rate that the Kuala Lumpur player puts in every game is unquestionable but the output still leaves plenty to be desired.
Having gained a couple of months of experience in Thailand training with higher competition and playing in a more superior league, it is time to give Nakhon Ratchasima’s Shahrel Fikri a stab at being the focal point of the attack.
Admittedly less physical than Zaquan, what Shahrel brings to the table is his cleverness and better technical quality that will be vital to bring others in play.
The forward who is on loan from PKNP FC recently opened his scoring accounts for Nakhon and offers a different kind of game for the midfield to compliment, compared to Zaquan.
Result against Cambodia is still something Tan should seek on Monday but there should be some relaxation with the team selection in order for some form of experimentation to take place and that could well start with these trio of players.