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WC Qualification Asia

Akram wants preparation for second round to start from the Timor Leste second leg

7:48 PM GMT+4 09/06/2019
Akram Mahinan, Malaysia v Vietnam, 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup
Akram Mahinan is well aware of tougher challenges that lie ahead for Malaysia in the 2022 World Cup qualification and is calling for more improvements

There's still the important second leg tie on Tuesday at Bukit Jalil National Stadium where Timor Leste is the designated host on the day to get through. But after a whopping 7-1 triumph in the first leg, Malaysia have all but secured a place in the second round draw scheduled for next month.

Akram has been an ever-present member of the squad since Tan Cheng Hoe took over as the head coach and their experience of working together formed back when the former was still coaching Kedah. The midfielder has become one of Cheng Hoe's trusted generals on the pitch and when fit, is one of the first names on the team sheet.

The 26-year-old featured in the big win last Friday and despite another 90 minutes to go, could be forgiven for starting to be looking ahead beyond Tuesday's match. The first of the fixtures in the groiup stage of the second round begins in September and Akram knows that things will not be as easy as it was last Friday.

"I'm thankful that we got the win. From the Nepal match to the first Timor Leste match, we tried to our best and we managed to get the result that we wanted. But we still need to improve a lot for the bigger teams that we're going to face in September in the next round.

"The players are very committed following the instructions that we're given and everything is going well. For the second game against Timor Leste, we still need to maintain our tempo so that we can continually improve the team for the upcoming tougher matches," said Akram before Sunday's training session.

Akram and his team mates were given a day off on Saturday before resumption of training on Sunday as they work their way towards the return fixture. The first match indicated that the gulf between the two teams is still a big one and with the healthy lead in hand, Akram could be one of the regulars who could be given time on the bench.

Often a misunderstood and under-appreciated player within the Malaysian team because of the nature of his work in the centre of midfield - to destroy opponent's attacking move and to reclaim possession for his team. It is not the glamour job but one which Akram does very well due to his good awareness levels on the pitch.


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