Malaysia knew that they had the beating of Laos and were searching for plenty of goals against their more inferior opponents and opted to field a forward in Syafiq as one of the central midfielder alongside Akram Mahinan. This despite the availability of Syamer Kutty Abba and Kenny Pallraj, both of whom are central midfielders.
Normally operating either in the wider forward position or as the main striker, Syafiq found himself becoming the creator, the transition player, the continuity player from a much deeper position than he has been accustomed to in recent years.
To be fair, the Kedah-born player did not shirk the responsibility handed to him by Tan Cheng Hoe as he kept opening himself up to receive a pass but struggled in an unfamiliar role. In a game which requires ingenuity and creativity, Syafiq did not deliver on those counts as he tried to keep his game simple by moving the ball along to the next team mate.
"I've played in midfield before but that was such a long time ago. But in training, the coach has tried me in midfield, so it's a new challenge for me. When you've not played in that position for a long time, it takes a while to find the momentum and the rhythm."
"In training, we can pass but in game situation, things become different. When we wanted to go forward, we saw that Laos were very compact in defence which limits the passing options. In my mind, I knew that I can't lose the ball because I don't want to give them a chance to start a counter attack," said Syafiq after the match.
Malaysia went into half time on level ground with Laos after managing to cancel out the opener from the away side. But the second half proved to be a hard watch as a resolute Laos defence constantly repel what Malaysia threw at them.
While the Malaysian fans in the stands and at home watching through their television were left feeling nervous, Syafiq knew that Malaysia would eventually find the breakthrough and was confident in the abilities of his team mates.
"It never crossed my mind that we will not win this match. Right from the start, we went on the offensive but it was tough to penetrate against a 10-man defence. But we remained confident that we will get all three points and we did," he added.
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