Only 13 players remained from the squad that went all the way to the final of the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup back in December as Cheng Hoe embarks on the journey to get Malaysia into the top 34 spots in the Asian zone to qualify straight into the group stages of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
Currently ranked 35th in Asia, Malaysia need to get some serious points to avoid playing in the play-off stage and it will be a direct battle against the one holding the 34th spot in Singapore, which coincidentally will be Malaysia's opponent in the Airmarine Cup later this month.
Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) have allowed Ong Kim Swee to take the likes of Safawi Rasid, Akhyar Rashid, Syamer Kutty Abba and Syahmi Safari; leaving Cheng Hoe with no option but to give a chance to untested qualities who have shone in the start of the 2019 Super League season.
Of the 25 players called up, only S. Kumaahran from Johor Darul Ta'zim II plays in the Premier League but the lack of attacking options has led to Cheng Hoe taking a punt on the youngster. Another youngster in Perak's Firdaus Saiyadi has been rewarded for his sterling work that started towards the end of last season in helping the club lift the Malaysia Cup trophy.
Nicholas Swirad's impressive form for PKNS FC has also earned him a spot in the squad, likewise for Selangor's Faiz Nasir. Felda United's Hadin Azman has been in good goal scoring form and returns to the national team fold once again due to his strong showing for The Fighters.
Hafiz Ramdan (PKNP FC) and Halim Saari (Selangor) are the two other newcomers to the senior national team who will also play Nepal on March 26. The squad will start reporting for duty beginning March 12.
Squad in full:
Goalkeepers: Hafizul Hakim (Perak), Khairul Fahmi (Melaka), Ifwat Akmal (Kedah)
Defenders: Rizal Ghazali (Kedah), Matthew Davies (Pahang), Nicholas Swirad (PKNS), Shahrul Saad (Perak), Nazirul Naim (Perak), Latiff Suhaimi (Selangor), Syazwan Andik (JDT), Irfan Zakaria (KL)
Midfielders: Akram Mahinan (PKNS), Kenny Pallraj (Perak), Nor Azam Azih (Pahang), Faiz Nasir (Selangor), Firdaus Saiyadi (Perak), Halim Saari (Selangor)
Forwards: Syazwan Zainon (Kedah), Hadin Azman (Felda), Mohamadou Sumareh (Pahang), Zaquan Adha (Kedah), Hazwan Bakri (JDT), S. Kumaahran (JDTII), Hafiz Ramdan (PKNP), Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (Pahang)
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