It was great fanfare that greeted the Malaysian team right from the moment that they touched down in Hanoi, Vietnam on Wednesday afternoon. The home media were out in full force not only at the airport but also at the training ground later in the evening when Malaysia stretched their legs after a 3-hour journey from Kuala Lumpur.
With the frenzy created by the arrival of Malaysia, whom the home team sees as their direct rival to top Group A of the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup, the buzz of excitement is also strong with the home fans with all tickets to Friday night's match being sold out almost as soon as the ticket sales started.
Vietnam opened their campaign with an easy 0-3 win over Laos at Vientiane and will be expected to start the match against Malaysia as odds-on favourites to win. A lot of pressure will be heaped on Malaysia's defence and for stalwart centre back Shahrul Saad, he deemed it all as part and parcel of the game.
"The game against Vietnam will be very tough. The defence is getting better as we're are all committed to the task and we need to be more discipline from the front to the back."
"Everyone is ready for the tournament and this match. They may have a full stadium but the players are used to it and hopefully we can get a win back to Malaysia.
"Vietnam have a young team and especially up front, they have dangerous players who also possessed good speed. There's a reason why they are feared in the tournament," Shahrul told Goal.
Having played for Perak in front of 80,000 crowd in the recent Malaysia Cup final, Shahrul certainly can walk the talk with regards to the atmosphere generated by a partisan home crowd not being an issue. The others like Khairul Fahmi, Aidil Zafuan, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha and Zaquan Adha have also experienced similar scenarios.
But it will be a new experience for most of the other probable starters. It is up to the 25-year-old Shahrul and the aforementioned four players to advice and guide their fellow team mates.
Malaysia currently top the group with maximum points from two matches but Vietnam are behind purely because they have only played one match thus far. A win for Malaysia would more or less confirm progression into the semi-final stage while The Golden Dragons will be hoping to pip Malaysia with a win of their own.
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