Malaysia, losing Suzuki Cup finalists in 2014, may have avoided Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia for this year’s tournament, but co-hosts Myanmar and Vietnam will still test the Tiger’s mettle. FourFourTwo takes a closer look at the three confirmed teams in Group B.
- FIFA ranking: 167
- AFF ranking: 2
- Coach: Ong Kim Swee
- Recent results: DWLWW
- Planned friendlies: Indonesia (September 6), Singapore (October 7), Afghanistan (October 11)
- Best AFF Suzuki Cup result: Winners, 2010
- 2014 Result: Runners-up
The Tigers may have reached the final two years ago, but there is an uneasy feeling surrounding the team two years later. A 4-3 aggregate defeat to Thailand in the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup final was only the tip of the iceberg.
A 10-0 whitewash by United Arab Emirates last September, a want-away Football Association of Malaysia president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah and a raft of recent shock retirements have torn morale to pieces.
Malaysia have placed their trust in Ong Kim Swee – the same man the national body overlooked when appointing Dollah Salleh in 2014. He has come under-fire in recent weeks for the Oceania Tour and for alleged unsuitable training methods, before that cluster of retirements – captain Safiq Rahim and fellow stalwarts Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak, S. Kunanlan and Amirul Hadi Zainal all bowing out in the same week.
But the former Malaysian under-23 coach has vowed to persevere and guide Malaysia in the AFF Suzuki Cup – and he has at least received a kind draw to aid his chances – and Asian Cup qualifiers next year.
The absence of that key quartet will of course weaken the Tigers, particularly Safiq, arguably the finest player of his generation. Safiq, who only turned 29 last month, skippered the team in the 2010 triumph and won the golden boot in 2014.